The Legal Ombudsman (LeO) has 22 live enforcement cases against legal services providers that have failed to comply with its decisions, according to the latest figures.
Meanwhile, there are six ongoing judicial review claims against its decisions.
A paper for the most recent meeting of LeO’s governing board, the Office for Legal Complaints, revealed that LeO’s legal team was asked to take enforcement action against 36 law firms in the year to 31 March 2022.
In the following seven months, there were 17 referrals to the legal team to take enforcement action – although in three of them it was decided that further action was inappropriate.
In total, there were 22 open enforcement cases as of 1 November 2022.
To put this in context, LeO made 2,397 final decisions in this period, of which 1,214 involved payment of a financial remedy. Of those, 787 were accepted by the complainant, making them legally binding.
The paper said that, based on the available data, LeO’s assessment remained that its strategic approach to enforcement was “effective in ensuring that, wherever practicable, steps are taken to ensure that complainants receive the remedies that have been directed by an ombudsman”.
Over the period covered, LeO received 72 judicial review pre-action letters, and 20 actual claims. Twelve have been decided in LeO’s favour, one withdrawn, one settled and the remaining six were outstanding or the subject of appeal.
While most pre-action letters were sent by complainants, most judicial review claims were brought by service providers, the paper said.
LeO said the number of judicial review claims remained “roughly consistent when compared to previous years” and it would continue to “robustly defend such challenges where it is appropriate to do so”.
Since April last year its legal team had undertaken “a significant amount of work” to review all the court costs owed to it. By the end of October, over £32,000 had been recovered.
LeO has also reversed a decision taken in 2021 that the recovery of outstanding case fees would be handled by its finance team through the Money Claims Online system. The legal team now takes over at the pre-action stage. This would ensure that cases were “correctly brought and progressed”.
LeO added that it was starting the recruitment process for a solicitor for its legal team. It currently consists of four members – the legal manager, a solicitor and two paralegals.
“We are satisfied that, with their appointment, the team is adequately resourced to deal with demand both in terms of challenges to casework and enforcement.”