Complaints Policy

Complaints Procedure - where a barrister has handled your matter

 

Our commitment to handle complaints

Our barrister members are authorised and regulated by the Bar Standards Board (BSB) and as such are required to comply with a robust regulatory Code of Conduct. As such, our barristers are committed to delivering high quality legal advice and client care and aim to offer all our clients an efficient and effective service. The Clerksroom team providing support to the barristers are equally committed to providing a high-quality legal service to all our clients.  This can be shown in the feedback we have received from clients which can be seen on our individual barrister profiles, as well as on Trustpilot reviews here and here

 

Complaints resolution 

Where possible, we will resolve complaints to the client’s satisfaction.  Where this is not possible, we will give the client a clear and reasoned response to their complaint with reference to: 

 

Making a complaint 

If something does go wrong, we need our clients to tell us about it as soon as possible so that we can have a chance to resolve it. 

You can view our process in a flow process format here and a flowchart format to determine the steps you may wish to consider here.

Informal: Before making a formal complaint, we encourage clients to consider whether their concerns can be informally addressed through a conversation with the person undertaking their work or a member of our Clerking or Professional Standards Teams.  Naturally, this approach is likely to produce a quicker resolution than the more formal route. 

Additionally, it may be that your concern or query can be address by reviewing the agreement you entered into and the barrister’s terms or by considering our guidance on the Scope of Services and Service Standards.

Formal: If it is not possible to resolve the matter informally, we will always encourage people who contact us before making their formal complaint, to put it in writing through our online complaint portal. The benefits of this approach are that it provides clarity and avoids misunderstanding. Remember that the person dealing with your complaint won’t be familiar with your case or the instructions until they have had an opportunity to review the matter in depth. 

However, this isn’t a requirement, and we will investigate complaints where a customer complains either orally or in writing, including face-to-face, by phone, post, or email.

In particular, where individuals require reasonable adjustments to be put in place due to a disability, please see the specific paragraph below which details how to advise us of your needs. 

Please be assured that making a complaint will not affect how we handle your instructions. Additionally, you will not be charged for the time we spend on investigating and dealing with your complaint.  

Click here to access our complaints portal

It should be noted that our complaints procedure is for use in relation to complaints about the level of services delivered and such complaints can also be referred to the Legal Ombudsman. Complaints which are not about service delivery are unlikely to be handled under our complaints procedure or by the Legal Ombudsman and you can read more about this below. 

 

Reasonable adjustments 

Where individuals require reasonable adjustments to be put in place due to a disability or needs our complaints process or communication in an alternative format, they should set this out in an email to the Professional Standards Team at [email protected]‚Äč or by calling them on 01823 247247. 

You can review our Reasonable Adjustments policy here and our office accessibility here.

 

Timescales

For submission of complaints:  

Whilst you can ask the Legal Ombudsman to investigate complaints against regulated legal services providers, the rules state that you are required to submit your complaint to the service provider in the first instance.

Other than those imposed by the Legal Ombudsman (see below), there are no formal timescales for submitting complaints to us. However, the sooner we receive the complaint, the better our investigation can be, and the most appropriate resolution can be obtained. Early submission means that information and evidence relating to the complaints is likely to be fresher.

The Legal Ombudsman requires complaints to be made to them within 1 year of the date of the act or omission about which you are concerned, or within 1 year of when you found out about it. You must also refer your concerns to the Legal Ombudsman within 6 months of our final response to you.

For handling complaints: 

The Legal Ombudsman allows legal service providers up to 8 weeks to resolve a complaint after which a complainant can raise their complaint with the Legal Ombudsman.  Therefore, where we set timescales, these need to be complied with or there is a risk the matter cannot be considered within the timescale. Equally, we will comply with timescales we give to you or if we cannot for valid reasons, we will explain this to you in advance. 

Having a complaint considered by the Legal Ombudsman can be a lengthy process and it is currently (December 2022) taking 9-12 months for the Legal Ombudsman to conduct their initial checks and advise whether a complaint can be accepted and an investigation to begin. For further information on the Legal Ombudsman consumer journey, you can visit: https://www.legalombudsman.org.uk/how-we-work/consumer-journey/

 

Our complaints process 

When we receive a complaint through the complaints portal, we will acknowledge it as soon as possible and within 24 hours. It may take longer for us to acknowledge complaints by post or other methods as it may take longer to reach us; in which case, we will acknowledge it as soon as possible. 

If you have submitted a complaint through the portal and haven’t received a response within 48 hours, it may be that there has been a technical error and your complaint has not been received. In which case, we would invite you to email us at [email protected] to advise us. 

Within 3 days, we will review the complaint and contact you, usually by email but sometimes by telephone and confirm our understanding of the complaint and ask you to confirm that our understanding is correct. We will also ask you to provide us with any evidence you wish us to consider as part of the complaint. 

We will require this to be done within 5 working days of our contact with you.  

We will investigate the matter by reviewing the evidence and ask the barrister or member of staff for their formal response to the complaint. 

Once we have concluded our review, we will write to you with our decision which will be based on the evidence considered and will set out the reasons for our decision including any recommendations for resolution. 

If the timescales have been complied with and there is sufficient time, we will inform you how to escalate* your complaint to stage 2 if you disagree with the decision based on the facts set out. 

This stage is usually completed within 4 weeks from the date we receive your complaint assuming the timescales have been complied with. *However, this will only be possible if we receive the confirmation and information, we have requested set out above at stage 1, within the timescales we ask. 

If the timescales have been complied with and there is time for us to consider an appeal, we will require you to submit this to us within 7 days of receipt of our stage 1 decision. 

Your appeal needs to be based on the factual information and evidence set out in our letter and you will need to provide evidence in support of your appeal. 

We will acknowledge your appeal within 2 days. 

A different member of the Professional Standards Team will review your appeal and all of the evidence so far and will make a final decision on the complaint. 

This final decision will be sent to you in a letter (or other method agreed with you as part of reasonable adjustments)and will set out the reasons for our decision including any recommendations for resolution. 

You will be advised of the options available to you including your right to refer the matter to the Legal Ombudsman for consideration and the timescales and for doing so. 

This stage is usually completed within 4 weeks from the date we receive your appeal assuming the timescales have been complied with. 

The entire process will take no more than 8 weeks. 

 

If you are unhappy with our response to your complaint

If you disagree with any of our findings, it will be open to you to refer your complaint to the Legal Ombudsman, but this must be done within 6 months of receiving the final response from Chambers.  

The Legal Ombudsman is the appropriate body for addressing complaints concerning failings in service standards and for whom the contact details are: 

Address:           The Legal Ombudsman, PO Box 6806, Wolverhampton, WV1 9WJ

Tel:                    0300 555 0333

E-mail:              [email protected]

Website:           www.legalombudsman.org.uk

It is important to note that the Legal Ombudsman applies certain time limitations in relation to complaints brought before them. These are: 

You must refer your concerns to the Legal Ombudsman within 6 months of our final response to you.

 

What will the Legal Ombudsman investigate?

The Legal Ombudsman will investigate your complaint if it relates to any of the following:

In which case, we can investigate the complaint under our complaints procedure. 

However, if your complaint is concerning the outcome of a case or hearing, this is very unlikely to be due to the standard of service delivered by the barrister. Disappointment in such situations is completely understandable but the nature of the court system means that there are no guarantees. Also, just because a barrister represents you at a hearing, does not mean that the case has prospects of success; this is particularly the case in direct access cases as you have been acting as a litigant in person for most of the case with the barrister undertaking small aspects of the case based on your instructions and prior work. Whilst the barrister will follow your instructions and advance your case; this does not mean that the case has merits. The exceptions this are if they have advised that there is a point you wish to make which is untrue, incorrect or would impact upon the barristers duty to the court in the administration of justice – which they are bound to follow by their regulatory standards.

If there are allegations of professional misconduct, then the matter should be referred to the Bar Standards Board whose details are below. 

If there are allegations of negligence, then the Legal Ombudsman will not investigate such matters nor can we, under the complaints procedure as such matters are most appropriately dealt with by courts and there will be a need to follow the relevant court procedures. In order to bring a professional negligence claim, it is necessary to show that there has been a breach of duty and that you have sustained a foreseeable loss as a direct result of that breach. Such matters can become complicated and therefore you may wish to consult a solicitor to help you draft a letter of claim and submit this in accordance with the court protocols. Upon receipt of a letter of claim, the barrister will refer the matter to his insurers, Bar Mutual Indemnity Fund.

 

What won’t the Legal Ombudsman investigate?

The Legal Ombudsman may dismiss a complaint if it decides:

These examples are not exhaustive. 

 

Who can complain to the Legal Ombudsman?

 

Decision data

You can access decision data on the Legal Ombudsman website here.

This shows legal service providers which received an ombudsman decision in the previous 12 months, and whether the Legal Ombudsman required the provider to give the consumer a remedy. 

You can contact the Legal Ombudsman for alternative methods of receiving this data on 0300 555 0333 or email [email protected]

You will note that this shows in the 12-month period up to December 2022, there were three complaints made against Clerksroom barristers and the Legal Ombudsman required a remedy to be given in one of these cases of less than £750. To put this into context, these complaints represent 0.008% of the instructions received by Clerksroom in that same period.

 

Raising concerns with the Barristers’ regulator

The Bar Standards Board (BSB) is the regulator for our barrister members and can help in certain circumstances where your complaint does not fall within the grounds appropriate for the Legal Ombudsman. 

If applicable the Legal Ombudsman will refer your concerns to the BSB allowing them to consider if action is required.  The Legal Ombudsman will do this automatically where a barrister may have broken the rules in their Code of Conduct, or their professional duties set out in the BSB Handbook. This includes things like acting dishonestly, taking on work they are not qualified for, bullying, or being racist or homophobic.

They can be contacted at: 

Bar Standards Board Contact and Assessment Team

Address:           289-293 High Holborn London WC1V 7JZ

Telephone:       0207 6111 444                

e-mail:              [email protected]

Website:           www.barstandardsboard.org.uk

 

UK GDPR

We collate and analyse data about complaints so that we can improve the services we provide. We will collect personal information including your name and contact details, including postal address, telephone number, email address and social media contact information, in order to be able to communicate with you about your complaint. We will also collect sufficient information about the situation that you are contacting us about to be able to understand what has happened. We may need to request further information depending on the nature of your complaint. 

It is important to note that for data protection reasons and to ensure we uphold the regulatory obligations for confidentiality, we can only liaise with clients directly in relation to complaints. Should a client wish us to liaise with another person or a solicitor, we will require a signed mandate confirming the client’s authority to share personal data and confidential information and we will also need to verify the client’s identity before putting such arrangements in place. 

There are regulatory provision requiring us to process this data and as such the lawful basis upon which we rely is legal obligation. We also have a secondary purpose and basis of legitimate interest in obtaining this information in order to be able to monitor and improve the service provided by our barrister members. 

Information gathered may be shared with advice agencies, professional services firms, or public bodies only if appropriate. An appropriate scenario may be if your complaint relates to or raises safeguarding matters, and we need to seek guidance as to next steps. 

We will retain all documents and communications relating to any complaint for a period of 7 years after your complaint has been closed. After this time the data will be anonymised and then the personal data will be removed from our systems. For more information about our approach to GDPR, you can view our Data Protection Privacy Notice.

 

Alternative Dispute Resolution

If the complaint is unable to be resolved through internal protocols, approved, alternative complaints bodies offering mediation services are available.  One such body is Small Claims Mediation (e-mail: [email protected]) who are competent to deal with complaints about legal services should the complainant and the barrister both wish to utilise such a scheme.  Clerksroom does not, in the usual course of events, agree to use mediation service and considers that the Legal Ombudsman’s scheme is the most appropriate forum to consider complaints against legal service providers. 

 

Reporting, recording, and learning

As part of the commitment to continuous improvement, action is taken to improve services based on complaint findings, where appropriate. Learning is shared throughout the organisation.

We record details of all complaints, the outcome and any action taken, and use this data to analyse themes and trends which are reported to the board. 

Senior management take an active interest in complaints and use complaints data and analysis to improve services and undertake performance management.

 

Review and Monitoring:

Clerksroom will continually monitor complaints received and will conduct a review of complaints on a quarterly basis. Such review will consist of investigating: the number of complaints within the period in questions; the percentage of the number of instructions received in that period; the areas of law in which the complaints were made; multiple complaints against the same barristers; the nature of the complaints; the findings of complaints; the timescale for resolution of complaints; any referrals to the Legal Ombudsman and findings by them; any trends identified; any training issues; and any other actions arising.

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Barristers: 01823 247 247 Mediators: 01823 704 099