Handling complaints the common-sense way

Print This Post

13 August 2012


Michelle Garlick, a partner in Weightmans’ professional risk and Compl-i consultancy team, offers common-sense tips on how to handle complaints from clients

Regardless of size or sector, all law firms will face client complaints at some stage, but failure to handle a complaint in-house can lead to your client seeking help from the Legal Ombudsman or – if it amounts to an allegation of negligence – suing. To ensure initial complaints are dealt with swiftly and competently, a few key steps from the SRA Code of Conduct 2011 are outlined below:

  • Draft a clear written complaints policy which is readily available to clients;
  • Appoint a senior individual to oversee complaints;
  • Take careful details of the complaint and acknowledge it promptly – within three days. Set a fair and realistic deadline – usually 21 days, and provide your client with a contact in the meantime;
  • Notify external advisors immediately if necessary – there may be an opportunity to resolve matters that will be lost by delay. If the complaint amounts to a claim or circumstance, notify your professional indemnity insurer;
  • Investigate the claim thoroughly, and when drafting your response make sure you are clear and objective, stating your understanding of the complaint and the remedy you propose. Also, outline the changes you are making to ensure this doesn’t happen again and tell the client that if they do not accept your conclusion, they can go to the Legal Ombudsman, and have six months to do so (if you fail to mention the deadline, it will not normally begin to run); and
  • Take the action you have promised, and tell the client when you have done so. Always keep a detailed record of actions taken and correspondences.

The proper handling of complaints is largely a matter of common sense, but must be done properly to avoid damaging repercussions. Consult the code and the guidance, investigate properly and communicate clearly, and you are likely to avoid the worst pitfalls.

 

Tags: , , ,



Leave a comment

* Denotes required field

All comments will be moderated before posting. Please see our Terms and Conditions

Legal Futures Blog

How to make a case to the unconverted

Jonathan Whittle

The prospect of change is a daunting one, whether you’re a global firm or a small one. You might think that your firm’s working practices are fine, or that there’s no value in altering the way you do things because of the disruption it would cause. You might even see the benefits of using a different methodology, but still refuse to put the effort in to implement it – and you wouldn’t be alone. From our research in the 2016 report, The Riddle of Perception, we know that 73% of lawyers believe that adapting to change is not where their strength lies. However, it’s no longer optional.

November 16th, 2017