Regulators need to take urgent action to improve the way lawyers handle complaints after a “hard-hitting” new report highlighted multiple failings. However, although clients are often scared to complain, a positive experience when they do can actually make them likely to recommend the provider.
The Bar Standards Board has suggested changing the benchmark for measuring how its complaints investigators are performing – after it failed badly to meet its own key performance indicators.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has brought in the Insolvency Practitioners Association (IPA) to handle complaints against solicitor insolvency practitioners. It follows criticism by the Insolvency Service of the SRA.
Michelle Garlick, a partner in Weightmans’ professional risk and Compl-i consultancy team, offers common-sense tips on how to handle complaints from clients.
There is a “small but material rate of non-compliance” by solicitors with their complaints-handling requirements – and some bad attitudes towards complaints – confidential research by the Solictors Regulation Authority has found.
There are signs that lawyers are getting better at handling complaints but also still failing to signpost their clients to the Legal Ombudsman, the chief ombudsman has said. Both could help explain why complaint volumes are lower than had been planned for.
Law firms will this year have to give the Solicitors Regulation Authority a detailed breakdown of the number and type of complaints they have received in the past 12 months, as part of the process of renewing their authorisation.
Poor communication between lawyers and their clients was “writ large” as a theme running throughout cases brought to the Legal Ombudsman (LeO) in its first six months, the chief ombudsman has reported. It launched nearly 4,000 investigations by the end of March, from more than 38,000 calls.
Complaints are a law firm’s best source of market intelligence. I’ve heard this said countless times in recent years, previously by the Legal Complaints Service and its many forebears, and now by the Legal Services Board. “Many lawyers are missing the chance to learn from substantial numbers of consumers who make a complaint,” said LSB chief executive Chris Kenny last week. It may well be true. But hardly any lawyer believes it.
More than half of all legal providers are failing to meet requirements to provide clients with clear information on their complaints procedure – according to research from the Legal Services Board – which also shows that almost 70% of complaints against lawyers are upheld.