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Complaints about legal firms tumbling, says LeO

By John Hyde » Complaints about law firms appear to be falling sharply, according to the head of the Legal Ombudsman service. Steve Green (pictured), chair of the Office for Legal Complaints, revealed that the organisation is projecting to have fielded 6,500 complaints in 2015/16, compared with 8,400 annual complaints accepted in 2011/12, the first full year of the ombudsman’s existence. Green told a meeting of regulators and lawyers in Leeds that the ‘progressive decline’ can partly be attributed to so-called ‘silent sufferers’, who are prepared to tolerate poor service without complaining. But Green also said that solicitors are getting better at responding to complaints and satisfying clients. ‘Some of it might be as a profession you are resolving more complaints at first-tier,’ Green said. ‘It feels anecdotally that there is something in that. ‘We are seeing the top [most complained about] 50 firms responsible for significantly fewer complaints than when we started compiling the list. There is the sense of something getting better in the marketplace.’ However, he added that more clients are acting as litigants in person or making greater use of unregulated providers and thus have no right to redress from the ombudsman. Green said that where lawyers have consistently behaved poorly, he personally backs the idea of greater use of ‘name and shame’ powers, which have been used just once by the LeO in five years. ‘It is in your interests and consumers’ interests that where we do see evidence or risk we should be more courageous and proactive in using those powers,’ Green told the audience of lawyers. ‘We have taken huge strides [but] we have a lot more work to do in how we make our presence felt in the marketplace to make you more effective.’ Questioned by one compliance officer about the policy of publishing details of firms complained about, but where no remedy was necessary, the OLC chair revealed that the ombudsman may look at a new approach. ‘One of the things on our shopping list of things to do in the new year is to review our policy on publications. It is not our aim to penalise businesses who take this seriously and try to do the right thing.

 

[Courtesy – The Law Society Gazette]

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