“Turn-around” specialist sought to head Legal Ombudsman

Goldwag: Three-year term coming to end

The Legal Services Board (LSB) is looking for a person with experience of “turn-around situations” to become the new chair of the Office of Legal Complaints (OLC), the board which oversees the Legal Ombudsman.

With Wanda Goldwag’s three-year term coming to an end on 31 March 2020, the LSB has started the recruitment campaign for her successor.

The chair, who cannot be a lawyer, will be paid £52,500 for a minimum of 60 days’ work a year – the same as now – with the term to be between three and five years.

The job description calls for a candidate with a “proven track record in – and focus on – delivering improvements in customer satisfaction and redress, particular in turn-around situations”.

Writing in the application pack, LSB chair Dr Helen Phillips said: “The OLC has faced some difficult challenges recently, and modernisation is now the key focus of the work – the aim is to reduce backlogs and improve timeliness of processing complaints.

“Continuing on its journey towards excellence, the priority now is for the organisation to get into the right long-term shape to discharge its statutory responsibilities to the highest possible standards of quality and timeliness.

“Building on early progress, the LSB, OLC and the Ministry of Justice have a shared ambition to change radically the experience of customers over the next 12 months.”

The appointment will have to be approved by the Lord Chancellor and subject to a pre-approval hearing by the justice select committee in Parliament.

Despite improvements, LeO’s performance continues to stutter, although the latest figures shown to the OLC’s October board meeting indicated that it was meeting most of its key performance indicators so far this financial year.

Dr Phillips added: “I would like to thank Wanda for her contribution to the OLC and for leading the organisation through its modernisation programme, which has started to improve the service offered to people with complaints.

“The new chair will need to build on this work and be responsible for leading the Legal Ombudsman into a period of sustained high performance.”

LeO’s annual report said it was more likely to make a finding of poor service against a lawyer than not in 2018/19, reversing the trend of previous years.

We also reported in August that LeO was running a ‘proof of concept’ pilot as it decides whether to introduce formal mediation as another route to settling dispute between lawyers and their clients.

An update at the October meeting said the “early indications” were that the level of interest and take-up rate for the initiative was lower than experienced by the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission.

LeO is also testing the behavioural strategy ‘nudge theory’, as well as shuttle negotiations, as alternative ways to resolve complaints, the board heard.

The ombudsman is currently consulting on whether to start publishing its full decisions, as well as annual reviews of the most complained-about lawyers and firms, under plans to improve the quality of information it makes available.

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