with the UK Legal Ombudsman
also other information, news and general blog about the LeO
FOS news, information,
blog and links
This site is about problems at the Legal Ombudsman. My
attention has been drawn to them by their refusal to investigate
my complaint about a solicitor, and their subsequent point
blank refusal to investigate a complaint I made about
a legal ombudsman. The Leo has no
procedures for investigating complaints about its
own ombudsmen, see the quotation below.
carefully considered your request, I am satisfied that
the Legal Ombudsman does not hold either internally or
externally published guidance, policy or procedures advising
staff in relation to allegations that an Ombudsman has
shown bias or acted unfairly." FOI
question and answer
Oct 2014 ...
to save money.
looks as if
the LeO badly
ft. at it's
House at Quay
be quite a
Aug 2014 ...
now publishing data about
decisions in an easier format
the data here
Ombudsman criticised by Bar
to "revisit" it's
Disciplinary Tribunal has told
the Legal Ombudsman that co-operation
is a two-way process,
in a case involving a failure
to share information with the
lawyer who was the subject of
a complaint. The
tribunal ruled that a barrister
who refused to co-operate with
LeO was not guilty of professional
misconduct because LeO had refused
to let him see documents relating
to the complaint.
be very embarrassing for the
LeO as they reported the lawyer
to the Bar Standards Board in
the first place. It will be
interesting to see what internal
guidance there is to revisit,
if any !
is too big for its boots. In
my own dispute with LeO I could
not get anyone to investigate
my complaint about bias by the
Deputy Chief Ombudsman. I eventually
asked LEO (by Freedom of Information
request) to publish it's guidance
to staff on how to deal with
a complaint about bias by an
ombudsman and it turns out that
no such guidance actually exists.
(The Financial Ombudsman, by
way of comparison, says such
complaints will be handled by
the normal complaints procedures.)
article about this in Legal
FOI question and LeO's answer
Sep 2013 ...
not taking responsibility for
complaints about Claims Management
Companies (yet !)
It seems that
primary legislation will be required
before this can be done, probably
to ensure that the CMC costs are
not charged to the legal profession
with the details in LegalFutures
Society Gazette article
Sep 2013 ...
Regulation Authority (SRA) makes a
bid to free itself from Law Society
The SRA has replied
to a Ministry of Justice consultation
about legal services regulation.
The SRA is actually part of the
Law Society which is set up "to
to help, protect and promote solicitors".
People who have complained to the
SRA about solicitors sometimes find
their complaint is not acted on,
and the SRA will not say what (if
anything) they are doing and will
not enter into any further correspondence.
The SRA have a standard response
to complainants which is very unhelpful.
But it seems the SRA are not happy
with their relationship with the
Law Society. See the quotation below:
SRAs experience has been that
the delegation of operational independence
from the Law Society has been given
grudgingly and constant vigilance
is required, backed up by the prospect
of intervention by the Legal Services
Board, in order to ensure that the
SRA is able to operate independently
as required by the Legal Services
Act 2007". (para 8.9)
Consultation in response to MoJ
on LegalFutures website
Aug 2013 ...
publishes guidance for older people
on choosing a lawer, but does not
explain that LeO is unable to investigate
complaints where a solicitor is exercising
his discretion under a trust or will,
both common issues for older people.
LeO has published a guide on "Using
a lawyer as you get older".
Its full of useful, but includes some
rather basic information. ( Explaining
that it is OK to ask lawyers questions
when you employ them, for instance)
it could be more helpful in one area.
The guide mentions (several times)
that if there is a problem you can
ask the Legal Ombudsman to help with
any concerns/complaints. This is often
true, but not always. One common reason
older people approach lawyers is to
draw up a will, and this sometimes
(frequently perhaps ?) leads to the
lawyer being appointed as an executor
of the will.
is all fine and dandy at the will
writing stage, but problems may occur
for the will's beneficiaries when
the will writer has passed on and
cannot help. In thisn situation the
LeO may NOT be able to help sort it
out because LeO is unable to investigate
complaints where a solicitor is exercising
his discretion under a trust or will.
How do I know
this ? Well I had a complaint that
a solicitor did not search properly
for a missing beneficiary and gave
the bequest to a charity. LeO told
me that they are "unable to
investigate complaints where a solicitor
is exercising his discretion under
a trust or will".
take care when choosing an executor,
chose someone you really trust, because
they have huge authority and discretion
and your beneficiaries probably won't
be able to complain to the Legal Ombudsman
or the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
Be sure to specify exactly what should
happen to a bequest if a missing beneficiary
cannot be found. ( See the story immediately
below for more detail on what happened).
a lawyer as you get older"
Aug 2013 ...
Legal Ombudsman suggests using
the alternative legal market means
customers are unable to complain
to the legal ombudsman ... But
the LeO refuses some complaints
about regulated solicitors too.
suggests, amongst other things,
that their complaints system
is available to regulated lawyers
like solicitors but not to the
alternative legal market. One
area which it mentions is wills,
but when I complained to LeO
about how a Solicitor handled
my Aunt's will, my complaint
was brushed aside by the Legal
Ombudsman as being outside their
remit because the solicitor
was an executor exercising his
complained that the Solicitor
had not searched properly for
a missing beneficiary of the
will. He had done little to
search himself and delegated
the search process to a tracing
firm which did not provide a
written report of what searches
it had actually made. The firm
had few resources and was not
financially viable to carry
out a search abroad (it has
now filed to be struck off at
companies house). The solicitor
assumed (with no hard evidence
to back it up) that the missing
beneficiary could not be traced.
(As an example of the depth
of search carried out, I searched
for the missing person's name
in the phone book and found
someone with the same name living
near the last known address,
when I asked if this person
had been contacted the solicitor
could not answer.) The solicitor
then gave the missing person's
bequest to a friendly charity,
which (cosily) turned out to
be the Solicitors Benevolent
complained to the Legal Ombudsman
that the solicitor had acted
unprofessionally by not carrying
out a proper search. My complaint
was assigned to Mr Gary Garland,
the Deputy Chief Legal Ombudsman
and presumably LeO's second
most senior expert. He refused
to consider the complaint as
"there is no prospect of
success". I was advised
that the LeO is "unable
to investigate complaints where
a solicitor is exercising his
discretion under a trust or
will" so there was no point
complaining to the LeO at all.
The LeO also refused to investigate
my complaint about the way Mr
Garland handled the case. It
seems the LeO have no procedures
for considering a complaint
of bias or unfairness against
one of their ombudsmen and they
this in a Freedom of Information
its not only unregulated legal
suppliers who fall outside the
LeO's remit, regulated solicitors
can be outside the remit too
thus avoid investigation of
care who you appoint as executors,
they can do whatever they wish,
with little chance that the
Legal Ombudsman or Solicitors
Regulation Authority will look
into any complaint that might
arise out of their conduct even
if your executor is a solicitor.
Take care to specify what should
happen to bequests if the beneficiary
cannot be found, if this is
left to the executors they can
use their discretion, which
in my case meant giving the
money to a Solicitors' charity,
an action which the LeO and
SRA think that is acceptable.
Giving away money in this way
is not un-common, indeed the
SRA publishes a list of charities
who do accept such funds.
about this in Metro
list of charities that accept
bequests from missing beneficiaries
of Information reply by LeO
about complaints against ombudsmen
Aug 2013 ...
Chief Ombudsman writes about the LeO's
case fee structure.
article by Adam Sampson in the Law Society
Gazette, discusses whether or not case
fees might be waived for some cases,
and gives some explanation and examples.
One interesting issue is that it seems
some lawyers are just "paying off"
cases if the amount involved is small,
to avoid being referred to the Ombudsman.
I have heard a similar situation sometimes
exists at the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Worth a read if you are considering
bringing a case to the LeO.
Society Gazette article
Aug 2013 ...
Consumer protection comes at too high
a price. Throwing money at consumer protection
might not be the answer to recent scandals.
is an interesting article in The Telegraph,
by Richard Dyson, questions whether the
host of expensive Ombudsmen in the UK
is really necessary.
in The Telegraph
Jul 2013 ...
Legal Ombudsman gets less business, 10% of
staff at risk of redundancy !
UPDATE 01 Aug
... and the staff don't like it... Staff Union
commences tribunal claim...25 staff at risk
It cannot be coincidence that our lead rep,
who was building the union, is dismissed by
redundancy first, then quickly afterwards
the Ombudsman announces 25 further redundancies.
story in the Birmingham Mail (with
picture of the LeO's glamourous HQ)
This story seems to partly
about problems with the LeO taking over responsibility
for complaints about CMCs (rather than the
FOS). It appears there is uncertainty
about how LeO's costs are to be reclaimed
from CMCs. Of course it may be a simple lack
of demand as well as workload falls, it appears
70% of Legal Ombudsman's decisions are rejected
by the complainant, hardly a vote of confidence,
and there's no appeals process.
story at LegalFutures website
part 2 ,,,CMCs funding challenge
Annual Review 2013 (70% rejected)
Jul 2013 ...
Interesting FOI request to the Solicitors Regulation
Authority (SRA), LeO declined to investigate
This very interesting case
involves a Solicitor who mishandled a case and
then stopped representing his client. The client
could not get alternative representation and
the case then became out of time. The case was
the subject of a complaint to the Legal Ombudsman.
The FOI request then states:
"The [LeO] explaining,
the regulator could not deal with a complaint
against the solicitor because legal issues were
'too complex'. and, neither the regulator nor
itself could deal with complaints that, 'amount
The FOI request then asks whether the SRA can
deal with these issues. It will be interesting
to see what happens and how the SRA reply. They
usually respond with a long standard letter
listing what they won't do. My bet is SRA will
not say whether they will investigate the issues,
and if they do take action they wont tell him
what it is they are doing or the outcome, nor
will they contact him again or keep him informed...In
other words, not much use...but let's see what
But what a system...where the
legal ombudsman cannot deal with such a case
because of its complexity and/or because it
involves negligence ! (By the way, they also
won't deal with anything where the solicitor
is acting as a trustee, for instance as an executor).
These restrictions leave large areas LeO won't
touch. This may be part
of the reeason the LeO Service Complaint Adjudicator
"The [LeO] service is largely confined
to remedying identified over-charging or financial
loss, or awarding relatively small sums for
the inconvenience caused by poor service"
Walter Merricks, LeO Annual Review 2012
the full details in the original FOI request
and any answers here
Jul 2013 ...
"Lawyers should not be afraid of complaints,
complaints are rich in information about how the
legal sector is performing and what people object
to or feel strongly about when buying services"
Samson, Chief Ombudsman in The Law Gazette
The Chief Ombudsman should
practice what he preaches, the LeO IS afraid
of crucially important complaints about their
own ombudsmen. The Legal Ombudsman Service has
no "internally or
externally published guidance, policy or procedures
advising staff in relation to allegations that
an Ombudsman has shown bias or acted unfairly".
LeO simply won't accept complaints about bias
by their own ombudsmen. To make such a complaint
you have to take legal action against the LeO
by means of a Judicial Review which means ordinary
people can't complain. If they won't accept complaints,
LeO won't learn what is really happening in their
own organisation and bad practice could continue
un-noticed. What a system !
See also entry below for 26 Jun 2013 describing
what Leo says about complaints in its Annual Review.
question and answer confirming the LeO lack of
Jul 2013 ...
It's not only the Legal Ombudsman...check out this
blog about the Solicitors Regulation Authority
This is a blog from someone
who was badly treated by a firm of solicitors and
tried to complain to the SRA. The SRA were not interested,
but after the complainant won his case against the
solicitors in the high court (even though he acted
without lawyers as a litigant in person) the SRA
have decided they will look at it. But, as is usual
at the SRA, they won't tell the complainant what
they decide to do, if anything. This blog is a good
read and contains some shocking stats obtained under
FOI about what happens to the complaints made to
the SRA about lawyers. In 2012 94% of complaints
were rejected and only 0.6% were referred to the
Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal where meaningful
action can be taken against firms. The SRA is part
of the Law Society.
blog with details about the case
page of the blog
Jun 2013 ...
What the LeO thinks of its own performance, (when
nearly 70% of complainants reject LeO decisions.)
order for an ombudsmans decision to be enforceable
and binding on the lawyer the complainant must accept
it. In nearly 70% of cases where an ombudsman makes
a decision, the complainant rejects the decision.
As we are confident in the independence and impartiality
of our ombudsmen we believe that this can only indicate
that complainant expectations regarding the value
of compensation or redress often exceeds what the
ombudsman considers to be required." LeO
Annual Review 2013, page 47
What a complacent approach ! The LeO's
ombudsmen may well be independent and impartial, but
do they reach the right conclusions ?
If 70% of complainants reject the decisions it means
that they have no confidence in the decisions. LeO
should think hard about that.
It asks the question "What is going on at the
LeO if 70% of complainants won't accept their decisions
? All that effort, expense and time and 70% reject
the decision ?
Jun 2013 ...
What Legal Ombudsman says about complaints
( Do as I say not as I do ! )
back learning from complaints"
"Complaints are rich in information,
particularly when certain trends emerge,
about how a sector is performing; what it
is doing badly and where there are areas
for improvement. They tell us what poor
service looks like and what it is that people
object to or feel strongly about when buying
services. In essence, they tell us how things
can be done better"
Annual Review 2013
research shows that a good complaints process
- one that is well explained and easy to
follow - can increase consumer confidence
in a firm, especially when they are able
to address problems that arise. It demonstrates
that the firm has confidence in the service
they offer and they are committed to delivering
to the highest standards" Listen,
Inform, Respond, A Guide to good complaints
handling (aimed at lawyers)
Despite, these lofty aims
and guidance for others, the Legal Ombudsman
does not seem to practice what it preaches.
When I wanted to complain about prejudice
by an Ombudsman, my complaint was not investigated
and I was told to commence a Judicial Review
as LeO has no procedure for considering such
complaints and no instructions to LeO staff
about how to handle such a complaint. So much
for learning from complaints, learning about
areas for improvement, learning what poor
service looks like, increasing confidence
in LeO, or demonstrating that LeO has confidence
in its service and is committed to the highest
considered your request, I am satisfied
that the Legal Ombudsman does not hold either
internally or externally published guidance,
policy or procedures advising staff in relation
to allegations that an Ombudsman has shown
bias or acted unfairly."