1. At the outset of the case, the conducting fee earner will ensure that certain information is conveyed to the client. This information should be set out in the client care letter or written terms of business. The information is:
- who is responsible for the conduct of the case and which person the client should contact in the event of their unavailability, (normally, the fee earner’s personal assistant or colleague).
- an outline of the firm’s complaints procedure
- appropriate information as to costs / potential cost liability
- copies of any appropriate leaflets.
2. All of the firm’s employees are responsible for recording details of formal written complaints on Complaint Report Forms. Supplies of these forms are kept in the General Office / Reception. All written complaints must be recorded on the same day as they are received. A separate complaint file will be opened. The employee who recorded the complaint should immediately give a copy of the complaint report form, along with a copy of the complaint to Carol Nattrass, company secretary and practice manager. Nigel Miller or Noel Dilks, the directors responsible for investigating complaints, should be notified that a complaint has been received. The complaint report form should be placed on the central complaints register which is kept with Carol’s records. If there is any doubt as to whether any given situation is to be considered and identified as a complaint, the matter should be referred to Nigel Miller or Noel Dilks for his consideration.
3. The director must consult with the fee earner about whom the complaint has been lodged, must read the casefile, and will contact the client in writing, within 14 working days, addressing the client’s complaint and confirming the further steps, if any, which will be taken by the firm.
4. At this stage, if the client remains dissatisfied, they will be invited to write to the firm again explaining their reasons why they remain dissatisfied. The director who initially investigated the claim must then arrange for another director of the firm to review the original decision regarding the complaint. That review decision will be communicated to the client within 7 working days.
5. If the client remains dissatisfied, the client will be provided with the name and address of the Legal Ombudsman who may be reached at PO Box 6806, Wolverhampton, WV1 9WJ or on +44 (0) 300 555 0333 or via their website at www.legalombudsman.org.uk should they wish to pursue the complaint further, and will be advised that contact with the Ombudsman must be made within 6 months. If any of the above timescales cannot be met, the client will be advised accordingly.
6. In the event of the firm receiving a complaint in respect of a breach of their equal opportunities policy in the instructions of experts or external agents, or identifying a breach upon file review or supervisory review, the firm will deal with this situation as a complaint in accordance with the above procedure.
7. In the event of corrective action requiring the revision of the work instructions / operating procedures, the Quality Representative will be responsible for the drafting and distribution of the revised documents. The nominated person at each office is responsible for updating the manual. Analysis of current complaints and their progress will be considered at the Management Review Meetings.
8. The Data Protection Officer is Noel Dilks and he will record and monitor any subject access requests which will be dealt with by himself in his capacity as COLP