The European directive on alternative dispute resolution (ADR) will not only extend the period for making complaints about lawyers from six to 12 months, but reduce the grounds for the Legal Ombudsman (LeO) to reject them, it has emerged.
In a consultation on the changes needed for it to become a certified body for the purposes of the new ADR directive, LeO said it would “no longer be able to dismiss or discontinue” consideration of a case under most of the existing grounds.
The two grounds for refusing to deal with a complaint which would remain are where the dispute is “frivolous or vexatious”, or where it had already been considered by another ADR entity or by a court.
Among the grounds which will disappear are where it would be more suitable for the issue to be dealt with by a court or where it concerned a lawyer’s decision when exercising discretion under a will or trust.
Other grounds which LeO will no longer be able to rely on when rejecting a complaints are where the issue involves “someone else who has not complained” and it would not be appropriate to investigate it without their consent, or where the circumstances “do not have a sufficient connection with England and Wales”.
Two further grounds for refusal which will disappear are where there was no evidence LeO’s refusal was not for legitimate reasons or the complaint was rejected for “other compelling reasons”.
However, LeO will be able to reject complaints where the value of a claim “falls below a pre-specified monetary threshold” or where dealing with the dispute would “otherwise seriously impair” the work of the ombudsman.
The consultation on the new rules will run for eight weeks until 2 November. LeO intends to present the response presented to the board of the governing Office for Legal Complaints on 9 December.
The new scheme rules could then go to the Legal Services Board for approval, with the aim of the changes being implemented from 1 April 2016
LeO apologised to solicitors at the end of last month for inconvenience caused after it abandoned plans to become a certified ADR body without a full consultation.
An earlier application for certification was withdrawn after the OLC made the decision that a fuller consultation should take place.