LeO fights off first judicial reviews of ombudsman decisions but five more are in the wings

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By Legal Futures

14 December 2011

Upward trend: far more cases going to formal ombudsman decisions than expected

The Legal Ombudsman (LeO) has successfully fought off two judicial reviews (JRs) against its decisions, with a further five currently going through the court process, Legal Futures can reveal.

A LeO spokeswoman said that five of the JRs were brought by complainants, and two by lawyers, all against decisions of an ombudsman taken at the end of an investigation.

In the two cases which have been before a judge, both brought by complainants, she said the claim was dismissed and the claimant asked to pay costs. The others are in their early stages, with the most recent notified just last week.

In recent months LeO has seen a substantial increase in the number of cases requiring ombudsman decision. In its pre-opening planning assumptions, it estimated that 10% of cases would require a formal adjudication; the figure is actually running at around 40%.

LeO said this seems to be a common trend across ombudsman schemes at the moment, possibly in part due to the economic climate.

On a similar theme, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has confirmed that two JRs over its new Qualified Lawyer Transfer Scheme (QLTS) have been fully resolved.

The QLTS allows barristers and foreign lawyers to requalify as solicitors. Last year the Law Society of Ireland started a JR after the new scheme ended the automatic exemption from the qualifying test that Irish solicitors previously had.

An SRA spokesman said the two had worked together to develop a module to be incorporated into the training of Irish solicitors that addressed areas of substantial differences in the law and practice of Ireland and England and Wales.

The main issue was around the significant differences in land/property law between the two jurisdictions, but if Irish solicitors pass the module, they do not need to take any of the QLTS assessments.

The other JR related to part-time bar students and whether they could apply to become solicitors under the old, pre September 2010 rules. The SRA originally said they would not enjoy the same period of grace as those who were studying full-time and completed the bar vocational course between 1 August 2009 and 31 August 2011.

However, the spokesman said “we have now amended the scheme in light of the legal challenge” and brought part-time students in line with those who studied full-time. The full details can be found here.

He added: “The SRA is focused on further improving the standards of those looking to enter the legal profession and is therefore happy to work together with other representative bodies on the best way forward. We’re happy that both the issues where the potential for a judicial review was raised have now been resolved.”

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4 Responses to “LeO fights off first judicial reviews of ombudsman decisions but five more are in the wings”

  1. Maybe if LeO employed investigators who and had well rounded experience of the practice of law in the UK and dispute resolution skills they would not find so many cases being referred to an Ombudsman. LeO should have a good hard look at its first stage process if it wants to reverse this trend. My experience of investigators – I am afraid v disappointing.

  2. Baz the Solicitor on December 15th, 2011 at 10:14 am
  3. LeO has many experienced Investigators from varied walks of life and is an organisation that looks at whether the service provided by a legal professional is reasonable.

    I fail to see where a need for well rounded experience in legal practice comes from.

    It does not take a degree or further education to work out that a legal professional has failed to give costs information, provide updates or give the simply courteousy of responding to a client in an appropriate and timely manner.

    Looking at the other side, it is simple to see from well recorded files what has been done and whether the complainant fails to listen to advice and follow procedures.

    Therefore a fair and impartial look at both sides …

  4. Claire on January 5th, 2012 at 1:13 pm
  5. It surely shows a failing on the part of the Ombudsman if the complainant disagrees with his decision to the point that they are prepared to ask for a judicial review. Can anyone advise me where I can find details of theseJudicial reviews. It would be interesting to see how they arrived at their decision.

  6. john hughes on February 26th, 2012 at 11:04 pm
  7. in the ombudsmans ill advised blog “fighting off more JRs than dallas” I think that I have got my facts right that he states we have seen 8000 cases and have only received 120 judicial reviews and then goes on to boast how he has/is shooting them down, it appears that he does not seperate actual rulings handed down by the ombudsman and those that are resolved in other ways which did not culminate in a proper ombudsmans decision, therefore it follows that if the majority were settled without a formal ombudsmans decision the ratio of 120 judicial reviews to 8000 cases looks extremely suspect, if for instance 75% were not formerly decided upon it would show 120 JRs for 2000 cases. further, the ombudsmans blog does not state that the JRs he refers to only started in december 2011, only just over 6 months, 120 in 6 months??? is this such a good pointer as the ombudsman would have us believe, or is it an exercise to deter people from applying for judicial reviews ?

  8. geoffrey clayton-blythe on July 19th, 2012 at 4:34 pm

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