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We aim to provide a high quality legal service to all clients. However, we also recognise that, as in all businesses, dissatisfaction with our service can sometimes happen. We look at all complaints objectively and take a constructive approach to reaching a satisfactory conclusion. We recognise that complaints may provide us with an opportunity to check the quality of our service and to make improvements.
This procedure applies to complaints about our charges in the same way as to any other complaint.
2.2 Third Parties
It is our duty as solicitors pursuant to principle 4 of the SRA' Code of Conduct 2011 "to act in the best interests of each client". We also owe certain limited duties to third parties such as:
(a) people and organisations whose interests are opposed to our clients, such as parties to transactions and opposite parties in disputes in which our clients are involved; and
(b) people and organisations whose services we have used on behalf of clients, such as barristers, foreign lawyers, consultants, experts, agents and witnesses.
However, our primary duty is to our clients. In performing those duties we may write and do things to which third parties object, while still acting within the law, applicable procedure, and our professional Code of Conduct. In some situations, whether we have been in breach of a duty to someone who is not a client will be a matter someone else to decide. For example, the way we behave in court or tribunal proceedings is first and foremost a matter for the court or tribunal.
This Complaints Procedure applies equally to complaints from third parties but, for the reasons set out above, we may have to delay or reject such complaints. Also, under our professional Code of Conduct, we are not allowed to communicate directly with the client of another solicitor without that other solicitor's knowledge and consent.
If you are a third party, please address your complaint to the person with whom you are dealing, or their supervising Partner, saying that you are making a formal complaint under this procedure.
The firm is not permitted to charge for investigating and resolving complaints and does not do so.
3 To whom do you complain?
3.1 We would like to resolve any complaints (including complaints about our charges) through an informal discussion with the lawyer concerned, or the supervising solicitor. Their names and contact details will be in the engagement letter you received when you first instructed the Firm, or should have been given to you when you first instructed us on the relevant matter.
3.2 If you do not think you can deal satisfactorily with matters in that way and would prefer to put your complaint in writing, you are welcome to do so. You are equally welcome to put your complaint in writing to the Matter Partner if you have attempted to address the problem informally but this has not been successful. In either event, please write to the Matter Partner, or, if the complaint is in relation to more general matters, to your Client Partner (if different), setting out the problem and stating that you are formally initiating the complaints procedure.
4. Our Investigation
We endeavour to acknowledge every written complaint within 7 days. When acknowledging your complaint we will tell you when you should next hear from us. This will usually be within 28 days from the date of your complaint if at all possible. We will review your file carefully with the person handling the matter and make any wider enquiries within the firm as may be necessary.
After we have carried out our investigations, we will respond to you fully, usually in writing, and we may suggest a meeting. We will tell you about our reaction to your complaint and how we propose to resolve it in a way which we hope will be to your satisfaction.
6 Complaints Handling Officer
6.1 If you are not satisfied with the response, please write to the firm's designated Complaints Handling Officer. The Complaints Handling Officer will review the way in which your complaint has been handled to date and will either:
(a) him or herself review the substance of your complaint him or herself, assisted where appropriate by any relevant members of staff; or
(b) ask the Principal solicitor to look at the complaint himself.
6.2 Your complaint will be looked at afresh. We may have to ask you to clarify your complaint, to explain more clearly what we have done or not done, what the consequences have been for you, and what you would like us to do to resolve the complaint.
6.3 We will then undertake whatever work we consider necessary to investigate the complaint further, which may include reading such of the files as are appropriate, interviewing relevant staff and listening to you. You will receive a response when the issues are as clear as possible. Our aim is to complete this process within 8 weeks of the complaint being clarified under paragraph 6.2 above. However, this will depend upon the complexity of the problem and the quantity of documents to be read.
6.4 The relevant solicitor will inform you of his or her conclusions and if your complaint has been found to be justified, will make proposals to seek to resolve it.
7 Legal Ombudsman
7.1 If your complaint still remains unresolved, you may have the right to refer your complaint to the Legal Ombudsman (LeO). The LeO is an independent organisation which deals with complaints about solicitors and other legal professionals. The Legal Ombudsman will consider complaints from members of the public, very small businesses, a charity club or organisation with a annual net income of less than £1 million or a trust with a net asset value of less than £1 million. The Legal Ombudsman will not normally consider any complaint unless you have exhausted that procedure and remain dissatisfied. In addition, there are time limits which apply for submitting your complaint to the Legal Ombudsman. Generally, you must do so within 6 months from we have responded to your complaint, or 1 year after the problem arose, or you should reasonably have known there was a cause for complaint. For further information, you can contact the LeO on 0300 555 0333 or at firstname.lastname@example.org .
You may also be entitled to have our fees and expenses reviewed by the court by applying for an assessment of the bill under Part III of the Solicitors Act 1974. This applies to all our work, and not just to the conduct of litigation on your behalf. If you take advantage of the Solicitors Act 1974 procedure within a month from the date of our invoice, your right to a detailed assessment is unconditional. If you delay beyond a month the court may impose conditions. Once a year has elapsed since the date of the bill you will lose the right to a detailed assessment unless there are special circumstances. The LeO may not consider a complaint about a bill if you have applied to the court for such an assessment.
7.3 The LeO may:
(a) investigate the quality of professional service supplied by a solicitor to a client;
(b) investigate allegations that the solicitor has breached rules of professional conduct;
(c) express a view on whether the solicitor's charges are found reasonable;
(d) reduce fees; and/or
(e) award compensation for inadequate professional services.
6.4 The LeO will not:
(a) determine whether a solicitor has been negligent;
(b) determine whether anything a solicitor has done amounts to misconduct;
(c) give legal advice or tell a solicitor how to handle a case;
(d) review the outcome of a Court case;
(e) review a decision of the Legal Services Commission.
7.5 Before it will consider a complaint, the LeO generally requires that a firm's internal complaints procedure has been exhausted. If the LeO is satisfied that the firm's proposals for resolving a complaint are reasonable, it may decline to investigate further. If the LeO believes that there may have been a breach of the rules governing the professional conduct of solicitors (as opposed to a problem with the service we have provided) it may refer the matter to the Solicitors Regulation Authority which is a separate independent body charged with the regulation of the solicitors' profession.
The address of the Legal Ombudsman is:
PO Box 6806
Telephone: 0300 555 0333
If you are calling from overseas, please call: +44 121 245 3050.
For our minicom call: 0300 555 1777
More information can be found at www.legalombudsman.org.uk.