LeO finally names firms – and majority were found to have acted properly

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By Legal Futures

17 September 2012

Sampson: objective information about the way the market is operating

The names of 772 law firms which have been the subject of a formal decision by the Legal Ombudsman (LeO) were published today – but an analysis by this website shows the ombudsman was happy with the law firm’s actions in more than half of the cases made public.

The list, publication of which was delayed from July, features 992 decisions, of which 490 (53%) did not lead to a remedy being ordered. This means the ombudsman was satisfied that the customer service was adequate and that any remedy offered was reasonable.

It includes some of the best-known legal names in the country, with Lyons Davidson the subject of more decisions than any other firm (10) and also more remedy orders (5). Irwin Mitchell was next in terms of decisions (6), but none of them led to a remedy.

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Other well-known firms in the list but which were not required to provide any remedies include Blake Lapthorn, Browne Jacobson, Hugh James, Leigh Day & Co, Manches, Mills & Reeve, Pannone, and Scott-Moncrieff Harbour & Sinclair, the firm of Law Society president Lucy Scott-Moncrieff. Top licensed conveyancers Countrywide Property Lawyers and Premier Property Lawyers (the country’s first alternative business structure) also feature but had no remedies ordered.

Barristers fared even better – the 27 individual barristers and one chambers in the list generated 45 decisions and only 14 remedy orders.

The website lists the name of the firms/individuals, the number of decisions and the number of remedies ordered; clicking on each firm’s name where there has been a remedy provides details of the area of law, the date of the decision, the nature of the remedy awarded and the reason for the complaint. Where no remedy has been ordered, this information is left blank.

Chief Legal Ombudsman, Adam Sampson, said: “What we are publishing is factual data, not opinion, and what we are trying to do with this policy is give objective information about the way the market is operating.” He has previously emphasised that the list is not about ‘naming and shaming’.

An updated list of ombudsman decisions will be published every three months, with the next list due to appear in November. LeO’s board will review the list of names to be published and the application of the policy on an ongoing basis.

Board chairwoman Elizabeth France said: “We hope this information will help manage consumer expectations of what the Legal Ombudsman can offer and encourage improvement in complaint handling by lawyers.”

Elisabeth Davies, chair of the Legal Services Consumer Panel, said: “Today’s publication of ombudsman decisions – something that the panel has worked long and hard to achieve – is an important step towards helping consumers to make more informed choices and giving law firms a further powerful reason to offer excellent customer service and deal effectively with complaints in-house.

“While this move was resisted by some in the profession, it brings the legal sector in line with many other industries where open publication of complaints data is accepted as an everyday feature of business life.”
As well as the quarterly list, LeO will publish information about lawyers or law firms involved in cases where there is a pattern of complaints, or set of individual circumstances, that indicate it is in the public interest that they should be named.

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