Important note – this policy has been written in preparation for KJM Legal seeking authorisation from the Solicitors Regulation Authority to be a Recognised Body. We are not yet a Recognised Body and though we will generally act in accordance with this policy document, it cannot be fully in force until we become one. When we are, we will update this policy document to remove this additional wording.
In particular, you must be aware that you cannot currently submit a complaint to the Legal Ombudsman about our services as they only consider complaints in respect of regulated lawyers.
Clients’ Complaints Policy
1. This is the policy we use for determining complaints about our service made by clients. There are some complaints we cannot consider under it e.g. if the same subject matter of the complaint is already the subject of litigation.
2. If you are a barrister, expert witness, supplier or other third party we do business with and you wish to make a complaint about an equality or diversity issue, please see our Equality and Diversity Policy.
3. If you are in neither of these categories and you wish to make a complaint, please email it to firstname.lastname@example.org or post it to 32 Drovers Way, Droitwich, WR9 9DA. We will consider these complaints individually, on their own merits, as we appreciate other people may have knowledge of serious issues that we should investigate. It is an abuse of our willingness to consider these sorts of complaints to send us complaints that are offensive, prejudiced, abusive, constitute harassment of us, any of our staff or anybody else we work with closely. Anything of this nature will not receive a response. Cogent complaints, not expressed in offensive terms will be acknowledged, even if it is not possible or appropriate to provide any further response.
4. We will make adjustments to this policy to accommodate vulnerable or disabled clients and also to accommodate clients who have a temporary illness or injury.
5. A complaint is any expression of unhappiness with our service.
6. We want to know when you are unhappy. Even if we don’t agree with your complaint in the end, we appreciate the opportunity to improve our services.
7. We will not take rash action on receipt of a complaint. We treat all of our staff fairly and considerately, so please do not fear that we will dismiss someone for a minor mistake you are pointing out to us.
8. Where our client lacks capacity to instruct us directly and has a Litigation Friend or Deputy, we will deal with complaints made by the Litigation Friend/Deputy where the complaint has been made in accordance with our client’s best interests.
9. You may make complaints by telephone, email or post. Karen McAtamney is the contact person for all complaints.
10. We will acknowledge all complaints within two working days and add them to our complaints register.
11. We will, wherever practicable, offer you a choice as to how the complaint is considered – more formally or less formally. We know sometimes complaints are easily resolved i.e. someone querying our professional fees might just need a breakdown of those fees. We also know that sometimes complaints are around issues that are both important and complex and trying to resolve outside of a more formal process won’t work.
12. If we need to follow a more formal route we will investigate the matters raised and let you know the outcome of our investigation.
13. In some circumstances, as part of our investigation, we may need to ask you questions to clarify your complaint in order for us to fully investigate it. Sometimes we might ask you to send us any evidence you have to substantiate your complaint, so it can be considered against our perspective of the situation. Refusing to co-operate in the handling of your complaint after you have brought it will affect our ability to deal with it properly. In some circumstances your refusal to co-operate would constitute unreasonable behaviour.
14. You will not be charged for complaining.
15. We have eight weeks to resolve your complaint. Some complaints will, because of the complexity or volume of material involved, take longer to look at than others.
16. The handling of your legal work will not be prejudiced or disrupted simply because you have made a complaint. However, you are still required to pay our legal fees, notwithstanding any complaint you have submitted and a failure to pay our fees will lead to us ceasing to do further work on your case in the usual way. If our working relationship has broken down (and merely submitting a complaint will not cause this), we would be happy to assist you in transferring your papers to alternative solicitors.
17. Complaints may not be made under this policy publicly (i.e. via newspapers, social media, TV). If a complaint is made in this manner we will almost certainly conclude that there has been such a breakdown in our working relationship that it is no longer possible for us to act for you.
18. We know that when distressing circumstances have led people to complain, they may behave in an out of character way. We do not see behaviour as unacceptable simply because a complaint is made forcefully. At the same time, we have a duty to provide a safe working environment for all of our staff, which means we cannot allow them to be subjected to abusive communications. Further, we are required to maintain our professional service to a proper standard for all of our clients, which means we cannot allow clients to pursue complaints in any way that places an unreasonable demand on our time or resources.
19. Aggression, violence or abuse towards us or our staff will not be tolerated. Aggressive language and behaviour (whether written or verbal) can be a form of ‘violence’ in this context, as it can lead to people feeling threatened, afraid or abused. Language that appears to be intended to insult or degrade, that is racist, sexist, ableist, homophobic, biphobic or transphobic or which makes serious allegations without any evidence is unacceptable. By serious allegations we are referring to suggesting someone has committed a crime or professional misconduct contrary to the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s ten principles or to other allegations of reprehensible conduct. Comments aimed at third parties of this nature are likely to also be deemed unacceptable because of the adverse effect on us from reading them or hearing them.
20. Unreasonable demands are ones that stop or make it very difficult for us to provide a proper service to other clients because of the time we are devoting to considering your complaint e.g. demanding responses within unreasonable time-frames, repeatedly, insisting on speaking to someone when they aren’t available, changing your complaint so much that it is very difficult for us to answer it.
21. Being in an unreasonable level of contact with us also constitutes an unreasonable demand e.g.. phoning a disproportionate number of times within an hour/day, sending us the same documentation repeatedly.
22. It is also unreasonable to use the complaints procedure to harass anyone, to bring repeated complaints on the same issue, to bring complaints that are malicious or vexatious.
23. Where your behaviour is unreasonable, we will write to you setting out what has been unreasonable and what the arrangements will be for dealing with your complaint onwards; this may limiting contact with you to be in writing rather than via telephone (if you have been abusive over the phone) or solely via a third party (if you have been abusive in writing) . In these circumstances it is almost inevitable that our working relationship will have broken down and we will be ceasing to act for you.
24. If, having considered all of the circumstances, we realise we did provide you with poor service, we will acknowledge this and offer you a remedy. Alternatively, if we don’t find poor service, we will explain our reasoning to you.
25. If you are not satisfied with our final response you may refer your complaint to the Legal Ombudsman (LeO). The LeO expects complaints to be made to them within six years from the date of the act/omission that you are complaining about. Where you didn’t initially know about the act/omission, the deadline is three years from when you should have known about the complaint. The Legal Ombudsman will usually only consider a complaint made within six months of the letter ending our internal complaints process.
26. The Legal Ombudsman’s contact details are as follows:
Telephone: 0300 555 0333 / +44 121 245 3050
PO Box 6806
27. Where you have concerns about our behaviour (and not only our service), the Solicitors Regulation Authority can help you. They would look at issues of dishonesty, taking or losing your money or treating you unfairly because of a protected characteristic. You can raise your concerns with the SRA via their website: https://www.sra.org.uk/consumers/problems/report-solicitor.page
Last revised: January 2019