There has been a 9% increase in the number of complaints to law firms last year, but they continue to resolve eight out of 10 themselves, according to official statistics.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority’s (SRA) second annual report on first-tier complaints (FTC) revealed that firms received 30,856 in 2019, up from 28,254 the year before.
It suggested the increase could be because of the transparency rules introduced in December 2018, which require firms to publish details of how and when consumers can make a complaint.
Firms resolved 80% of complaints, marginally lower than the 81% in 2018, a drop the regulator described as “not significant”. There has been a steady increase in recent years – the rate was 71% in 2012.
Complainants who are still unhappy can then go to the Legal Ombudsman with what are termed second-tier complaints.
The report found people complained most often about delay (18%), followed by failure to advise (13%) and excessive costs (12%).
More than half of complaints were made to ‘large’ firms. Despite accounting for 56% of the profession’s income, ‘very large’ firms received just 12% of all complaints, which the SRA put down having corporate clients “who have other routes to redress if service is poor”.
Larger firms were more likely to resolve a complaint – small firms resolved 64% of complaints, very large firms 88%: “This is likely to be because larger firms have dedicated resources to handle complaints.”
The regulator said firms could use information provided in the report to improve their standards of service and benchmark themselves against others.
Paul Philip, the SRA’s chief executive, said: “People want to be treated fairly and kept well informed at all stages of dealing with a law firm. Nowhere is this more important than when handling with complaints.
“Our latest report reflects law firms work over the last few years to increase awareness of their complaints processes and to resolve the issues that their clients raise with them.
“Publishing year-on-year industry complaints data was one of the key commitments we made when we introduced our new transparency rules in December 2018.
“One of the aims of these rules is to make data on the quality of service at law firms available so that potential clients can make informed choices when shopping around.”