Client Care and Complaints Resolution
Professional reputation is vital to solicitors operating in todays increasingly competitive market for legal services. High standards of advice and of client care are therefore crucial to all. There also needs to be provision to sort things out quickly and fairly where service falls short of client expectations. This is recognized at national level in the Solicitors Practice Rules laid down by the Law Society of England and Wales. Rule 15 requires all firms to have and to follow a procedure for handling client complaints. Failure to do so is a disciplinary offence.
Complaints that do arise often reflect a mismatch between the expectations of solicitor and client. It is important when instructions are being given for both sides to understand clearly what is proposed and what results can be expected. At this stage also, the client should be given clear information about fee levels and likely costs. This will all be confirmed in a letter from the solicitor, before work begins, setting out the terms of the instructions, saying who will be handling it, giving details of fees and charging arrangements and providing the name of the partner with particular responsibility for client care.
These early discussions should set the scene for a successful professional relationship. As things progress, however, you may be unhappy about the way they are being handled, by apparent slowness of response for example If so, try to settle the difficulty informally through discussion with your solicitor. In most cases this will serve to sort out your complaint which the solicitor will wish to resolve as much as you. Remember, no-one likes to have a dissatisfied client.
If, however, this fails to work, a more formal approach may be necessary and the following steps are recommended:
1. First write formally to the solicitor handing your business, setting out the details of your complaint, together with any relevant dates (unanswered letters, telephone calls etc) and the way you want the matter settled. Request a reply to your letter by a set date - within (say) ten working days. Send the letter by recorded delivery and keep a copy.
2. If this does not resolve the difficulty satisfactorily, write to the client care partner at the firm, enclosing a copy of your original letter,once more requesting a reply within a specified time, and asking for a copy of the firms complaints procedure.
3. By this time the complaint should have been resolved. If not, however, you may now refer it to the Office for the Supervision of Solicitors (OSS) at Victoria Court, 8 Dormer Place, Leamington Spa, Warwickshire CV32 5AE, tel: 01926 820082. The OSS will provide you with a form on which to set out your complaint.