How to complain
We aim to give every client courteous, helpful and effective service, but we may not always succeed. This is why we have a complaints procedure. We want to know if you are ever unhappy with any aspect of the service, so that we can clear up any misunderstanding or put right anything that has gone wrong. This section tells you what to do if you believe something has gone wrong.
What to do first if you are dissatisfied or concerned
First of all, think about telling the member of the firm who is doing your work. A question about whatever is worrying you, or a reminder that something seems to have been overlooked, may be all that is needed to put things right. If you prefer not to mention the matter to the person doing your work, or you have mentioned it but are still unhappy, you can approach the head of that person's department, or the partner responsible for your case, whose name you will usually have been given when we began to act for you. Alternatively, please get in touch with either Toni Wensley, who is the Client Care Manager, or the senior partner, Christopher Cook.
Resolving complaints informally
Not all complaints need to be handled formally. If you are expressing concern about some particular aspect of a case or transaction which is still going on, the person you have complained to, or another partner, will look into it as quickly as possible. If the problem turns out to be a misunderstanding, or a minor error that can be corrected straight away, we will try to sort it out, either the same day or the next working day (which means a day when the office is open), and tell you the outcome. If we are unable to do this, we will let you know, and tell you why. If we succeed in resolving the complaint informally with you that will be the end of it, but this does not stop you mentioning it again if difficulties arise later on.
Any complaint that we cannot resolve informally, whether it was made in writing or by word of mouth, is treated as a formal complaint, and we will follow this procedure:
- We will write to you within three working days, telling you that we are investigating your complaint and will respond fully within a further period, usually one or two weeks. How soon we can respond depends on how long the investigation will take. If we find that our original time estimate is too short we will write or phone before the time is up, to tell you how much longer we expect to take, and why.
- One of the partners will investigate, starting by looking at the file of papers for your case and talking with the person doing your work, to find out what has gone wrong and how we can remedy it. The investigation may take longer if, for instance:
- there are bulky papers to read, or
- someone involved in the work is away from the office, or
- we need information from a third party, or
- the case is at a stage where an investigation may disrupt urgent work, or
- there is possible professional negligence to consider.
- When the investigation is complete, we will write and tell you what we have decided, and why. If we agree that you were right to complain, we will also tell you what we have done, or propose to do, as a result.
- If you are not satisfied with our decision, you can tell us why you disagree and we shall be happy to go on discussing it with you, either in correspondence or at a meeting, until a conclusion is reached. We aim to resolve all complaints within the firm if we possibly can.
- The formal complaint process is always conducted by a partner in the firm, but it may not be the same partner at all stages. Usually the Client Care Manager or Senior Partner will write to you after the investigation, and handle the complaint from then until it is resolved.
- If you are not satisfied with the final outcome, you can refer it to the Legal Ombudsman.
As solicitors we have a legal responsibility to do your work with reasonable skill and care. If we fall short of this standard and you are left worse off as a result, you may have a right to take legal action, though we hope there will usually be no need to go to court.
Solicitors are compulsorily insured against this liability, just as motorists need insurance before driving on a road. Occasionally a complaint involves possible professional negligence, and then we have to consult our insurers before giving you a full response. We may also recommend you to go to another firm of solicitors for advice about your legal position. This is because, for obvious reasons, we cannot give you impartial legal advice about whether we have been negligent, even when we are sure we have not been, and we must not let our own interests come into conflict with yours or influence the advice we give you.
If you disagree with our bill
We hope that by keeping you informed about the cost of your case as it goes along, and giving an estimate in advance when we can, we will avoid any disagreement or misunderstanding. However, if for any reason you are unhappy with our charges you will be welcome to discuss the matter with the person handling your work, or one of the partners in the firm. If we cannot reach agreement, then you can refer the matter to the Legal Ombudsman or exercise your right to have our bill of costs assessed by the court, under sections 70, 71 and 72 of the Solicitors Act 1974.
If our charges relate to non-contentious business we can charge you interest under Article 5 of the Solicitors (Non-Contentious Business) Remuneration Order 2009 on any amount remaining unpaid for more than a month after delivery of our bill. Interest can be charged even if the bill is disputed, but if the dispute is resolved by a reduction in our charges any interest would be based on the reduced amount. Non-contentious business means any legal work that is not done in or for the purposes of proceedings begun before a court or an arbitrator.
If you have legal aid for a non-criminal case then you may have a financial interest in the amount of our charges. If you have paid a contribution or the statutory charge applies because you have received money or acquired or kept property as a result of the proceedings, you will have a chance to query our charges before they are assessed by the court or the Legal Aid Agency.
The SRA and Legal Ombudsman
The Solicitors Regulation Authority can help you if you are concerned about our behaviour. This could be for things like dishonesty, taking or losing your money or treating you unfairly because of your age, a disability or other characteristic. You can raise your concerns with the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
The Legal Ombudsman handles complaints about solicitors which have not been resolved under the solicitors' own complaints procedure. You can telephone it on 0300 555 0333 or write to it at PO Box 6806, Wolverhampton, WV1 9WJ, and its website is at www.legalombudsman.org.uk. You should normally allow us at least eight weeks to resolve your complaint ourselves, but there is a time limit for complaining to the Ombudsman: you may be too late if more than six months have passed since you last heard from us and more than a year since you first knew you had something to complain about.
We are required to make the following statement to you.
"We are not authorised under the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 and we are not regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. If you need advice on investments while we are acting for you, we may have to refer you to someone who is authorised to give this advice. However, we may provide certain limited investment advice services where these are closely linked to the work we are doing for you. This is because we are members of the Law Society of England and Wales, which is a designated professional body for the purposes of the Act. The Solicitors Regulation Authority is the independent regulatory arm of the Law Society and the Legal Ombudsman also handles complaints about solicitors. If you are unhappy with any investment advice you receive from us, you should raise your concerns with either of these bodies."