Any expression of dissatisfaction with service is a complaint. Clients may raise complaints by any reasonable means. Clients are asked to firstly raise a complaint with the person dealing with their matter. If a complaint is not resolved by the member of staff concerned, it must be referred to the Client Complaints Officer (CCO) – currently Simon Leyland, and the client will be asked to then confirm the details of the complaint in writing via post or email to the CCO.
Upon receipt of a written client complaint the CCO will: –
- Record that complaint in the Central Register noting the client name, branch, the person dealing with their matter, matter number, nature of complaint and the date opened.
- Send an acknowledgement of receipt of the complaint to the client within 5 working days of receipt of the complaint. This acknowledgement of receipt to the client will include a copy of this procedure so that the client is aware of its contents and has the contact details of the Legal Ombudsman should they be required.
- Contact the person in day to day charge of the matter requesting a fully detailed response to the complaint within 5 working days.
- Personally investigate the matter, including speaking with the person who has day to day conduct of the matter, using the Case Management System, and/or considering the paper file as may be appropriate to the particular complaint. The CCO may lack the expert knowledge to investigate complaints outside types of work which he or she currently practices in. In such cases, they may refer the complaint to the relevant Team Leader or Director Responsible for that Team, for investigation and response. In all other respects, that investigation will be carried out by the Team Leader or Director Responsible in accordance with this procedure. The Team Leader or Director Responsible will keep the CCO advised of the progress of the complaint and, in particular, will advise the CCO of the outcome and any procedural changes or training which may be required.
- Provide the client with a full written response within 20 working days from the date we acknowledged receipt of the complaint. (From either the CCO or person investigating the complaint).
If there is any good reason why any timescale cannot be met, the CCO or person investigating the complaint will advise the client accordingly as soon as possible.
In investigating the complaint, the CCO or person investigating will: –
- Do so fully and fairly.
- Apologise where it is appropriate to do so.
- Use his best endeavours to provide an outcome which either resolves the complaint or satisfies the client.
- Make any compensatory offer which he may feel appropriate.
- Where appropriate, agree with the client a plan to take the matter forward.
- Advise the client when it may be appropriate to seek independent legal advice
- Advise the Indemnity Insurance Manager if any possible negligence issue arises (CCO only).
If a client remains dissatisfied at the end of our complaints process, they would then be at liberty to contact the Legal Ombudsman, provided they are an individual, a personal representative of a deceased person, a “micro-enterprise” (having fewer than 10 employees and annual turnover or assets not exceeding two million Euros), a charity or club/association with annual income of less than £1 million, or a trustee of a trust with assets of less than £1 million.
The time limit for a complainant to refer the matter to the Legal Ombudsman would be six months from the date of our final response.
The Legal Ombudsman expects complaints to be made to them within one year of the date of the act or omission about which the complainant is concerned or within one year of the complainant realising there was a concern.
If you, a client, would like more information about the Legal Ombudsman, their contact details are as follows:
Telephone: 0300 555 0333 between 8.30am and 5.30pm (calls to 03 numbers will cost no more than calls to national geographic numbers (starting 01 or 02) from both mobiles and landlines. Calls are recorded and may be used for training and monitoring purposes.
Postal address: Legal Ombudsman, P O Box 6806, Wolverhampton, WV1 9WJ.
Alternative complaints resolution bodies also exist and are competent to deal with complaints about legal services, should both the client and Maxwell Hodge wish to use such a scheme at the end of our internal complaints process. They provide Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) services. Small Claims Mediation is one such body, details of which can be found at www.small-claims-mediation.co.uk; and another is Ombudsman Services, details of which can be found at www.ombudsman-services.org. However, Maxwell Hodge does not currently take part in these alternative complaints resolution schemes as they do take part in the Legal Ombudsman’s scheme should the complaint not be resolved in the first instance between the Client and Maxwell Hodge.
NB: the Legal Ombudsman cannot deal with a complaint about a bill if the client has applied to the Court for assessment of that bill.
Complaints to the SRA
If there is a professional issue which we have not resolved with a client via their complaint, and they feel their complaint is about our behaviour, then they can raise their concerns with the Solicitors Regulation Authority. For further details, please visit the SRA’s website: http://www.sra.org.uk/consumers/problems/report-solicitor.page