Law firms are routinely failing to tell dissatisfied clients that they are entitled to complain to an independent ombudsman, the solicitor watchdog revealed yesterday.
Only a third of firms responding to a survey said that they provided details of the Legal Ombudsman scheme at the end of internal complaints procedures.
The finding was revealed in a joint report from the ombudsman and the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), which supervises 130,000 practising solicitors in England and Wales.
The two report said that “there could be improvements in how some law firms deal with complaints”.
Researchers found that most complaints about solicitors’ firms involved allegations of unnecessary delay or poor communication. The areas of practice that generated the most complaints were residential conveyancing, family, wills and probate.
Most clients that had complained told the researchers that they wanted an explanation, apology or to have the work progressed.
The SRA said that the research found a mismatch between law firms’ views of client priorities and actual client expectations. Clients said they valued regular communication, clear information about costs and a straightforward explanation of the legal process.
However, only a fifth of firms thought an explanation of the legal process was a client priority. Almost two thirds thought that a positive legal outcome was their clients’ priority — but only a third of clients agreed.
Simon Tunnicliffe, the chief legal ombudsman, said it was “disappointing to see that so few firms surveyed had informed consumers about the Legal Ombudsman at the end of the complaints process when they have a professional obligation to do so.
“We are keen to work more with the profession to provide them with insights into how they can improve their complaints procedures.”