In a further twist to an already complicated saga, the Legal Ombudsman (LeO) has decided not to become a certified alternative dispute resolution (ADR) body for the time being.
Certification would double LeO’s deadline for complaints from six to 12 months. In a statement LeO said its “key priority” was to improve the “efficiency and quality” of its existing scheme.
LeO announced at the end of August that it was withdrawing its application to the Legal Services Board for certification as an ADR provider under an EU directive on the issue, to allow a “fuller consultation” to take place.
Steve Green, chair of the Office for Legal Complaints (OLC), LeO’s governing body, said yesterday that the two-month consultation had enabled the organisation to give “full and thorough consideration” as to how it should proceed.
“We are not giving up the ambition to become an ADR entity but we do want to explore alternative approaches to doing so. We will do this over the next six months.”
A spokesman for LeO said alternative approaches could be a “parallel scheme” or offering new ADR services.
He said the OLC had concluded that now was “not the right time to take on the additional risks and operational changes that would arise from proceeding with the scheme rule changes as proposed”.
The spokesman added that OLC confirmed that LeO would “ordinarily accept complaints that have first been considered by an ADR entity, where they are otherwise within the Ombudsman scheme” and promised that further guidance would follow.
Elisabeth Davies, chair of the Legal Services Consumer Panel, warned in September that LeO’s decision to withdraw its application to become an approved ADR provider would cause confusion.
Writing on the panel’s website, she said LeO’s change of heart meant that although law firms would meet the requirements of the Legal Services Act by signposting to LeO, they may have to direct complaints to another ADR entity to comply with the directive, which applies to lawyers from 1 October 2015.