500 calls to Legal Ombudsman on day one

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By Legal Futures

7 October 2010

The Legal Ombudsman (LeO) received 497 calls on its first day, with the first complaint about a solicitor who missed a court date after going on holiday and not telling his client.

Many of the complaints were rejected for various reasons, such as being out of time, but 22 investigations were opened on the first day, and 14 are awaiting allocation.

That first complaint concerned a housing case and the client was able last Friday to secure a two-week adjournment, and has since been trying to contact his solicitor without success. The case was resolved informally and within an hour after a LeO caseworker contacted the firm directly. Chief ombudsman Adam Sampson said: “There’s somebody who might be facing homelessness if that situation’s not sorted out. There are two ways of dealing with that. You either mount a formal investigation and do everything by the book, or you do what [the caseworker] did… There is a personal tragedy which has been averted because of what [we] have done.”

Some complaints were rejected because the client had not yet gone through the lawyer’s internal complaints-handling process, and LeO caseworkers were calling the lawyers up to warn them that a complaint was coming their way.

Speaking at the official launch of LeO at a reception at the Birmingham offices last night, justice minister Jonathan Djanogly gave the new scheme his full support and lauded the emphasis on trying to resolve complaints informally. “It is not only the right approach but one that will enable both sides to learn from [the complaint]. It is one that perhaps legal professionals in the past have not been first inclined towards, but with the help of you here will result in providing a better service in the future.”

Mr Sampson told guests: “We have made the transition from the former flawed set of arrangements to a much better set of arrangements, and we’ve done that to time and to budget.”

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