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13 February, 2018

The Chair of the Office for Legal Complaints (OLC) has today welcomed the appointment of three new non-executive directors.

Joining the OLC board will be Dr Jane Martin CBE, currently Chair of the Legal Services Consumer Panel and a former ombudsman; qualified solicitor Elisabeth Bellamy, who has been a member of the Law Society Professional Standards and Ethics Committee for six years; and Annette Lovell, director of engagement at the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS).

Wanda Goldwag, Chair of the Office for Legal Complaints (OLC), said: “I am delighted with the appointments of such an experienced group of non-executive directors.

“Jane Martin has detailed knowledge of consumer needs in the legal sector from her role at the Legal Services Consumer Panel, while Elisabeth Bellamy brings a wealth of experience including training solicitors on compliance. Annette Lovell knows only too well the world of the ombudsman from FOS and also the legal sector from working at the Solicitors Regulation Authority.”

Independent and impartial, The Legal Ombudsman investigates complaints and offers a free service to easily guide the public through the process of making complaints when they feel they have experienced poor service from regulated legal or claims management service providers.

These appointments replace outgoing members Caroline Coates, Tony King and Jane McCall.

Dr Jane Martin CBE was previously the Local Government Ombudsman and Chair of the Commission for Local Administration in England. In that role, she was also a non-executive member of the Board of the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman and a vice-chair of the Ombudsman Association. Dr Martin is now a member of the Committee on Standards in Public Life. In a career dedicated to understanding and promoting public service accountability, she has conducted research at the Universities of Birmingham and Warwick respectively and worked with local authorities across England. She was the first Director of the Centre for Public Scrutiny.  Dr Martin is currently Chair of the Legal Services Consumer Panel, a role from which she will have to stand down to take up the post of OLC board member.

Elisabeth Bellamy is a qualified and experienced solicitor with a varied legal background. Her early career included working for large firms both in the UK and Singapore. Since 2015, she has been a Director and Management Consultant with Purple Performance Ltd, her own business consultancy business. Immediately prior to that she held an in-house role on an interim basis for 13 months (maternity cover) with BASF plc. For 11 years she was Managing Partner at Drummonds Solicitors in Chester (2001 – 2012), a mid-sized practice which was subsequently merged with Linder Myers (2012 – 2014). Elisabeth is an independent Board Member of Archery GB, and has been a member of the Law Society Professional Standards and Ethics Committee for six years – Elisabeth will be standing down from this TLS committee to take up the OLC role.

Annette Lovell has worked for the Financial Ombudsman Service since 2013, where she is the director of engagement. This is her second period of employment with the Financial Ombudsman Service, having also worked there between 2010 and 2013, latterly as a lead ombudsman. Between 2013 and 2015, Annette worked for the Solicitors Regulation Authority as Director of Authorisation and then Director of Regulatory Policy. Annette is a former Deputy Chief Executive of the National Lottery Commission.

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5 February, 2018

The Legal Ombudsman responded today to the final report of the Competition and Markets Authority’s Legal Services Market Study.

The report was issued by the Competition and Markets Authority in December 2016. It outlines findings and recommendations to address the issues individual consumers and small businesses experience when purchasing legal services in England and Wales.

We welcome the opportunity to respond to this constructive report which will assist all stakeholders in this area to ensure that the market is functioning well for consumers of legal services.

More information and a copy of our response can be viewed here.

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2 February, 2018

Today, the Legal Ombudsman is publishing minor linguistic changes to its Scheme Rules for a period of representations, in compliance with Section 205 of the Legal Services Act 2007.

These changes are not substantive. They are made in line with recommendations from the Language of Complaints research, published in November 2017.

The period for representations will run for 4 weeks from 2 February to 2 March. The Legal Ombudsman will consider all responses to proposed changes and welcome the support of stakeholders to ensure that we do not lose the meaning of the rules in any language changes.

Please note that responses should relate only to the changes cited in the paper. Wider consideration on the content of our Scheme Rules is not included in this current period of representations.

More information and a copy of our response can be viewed here.

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30 January 2018

The Legal Ombudsman has launched a new factsheet to clearly explain the basics of our service complaint procedure.

The Unhappy with our service factsheet can be found on our website here.

We take complaints very seriously and want to ensure we put right anything that has gone wrong. Our service complaint procedure for handling complaints about our service is separate to the normal process that applies when you disagree with our views on the merits of your case.

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22 January 2018

The Legal Ombudsman has today welcomed its new Chief Ombudsman Rebecca Marsh into the role.

Rebecca Marsh has moved from the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO), where she was Deputy Ombudsman and Executive Director of Operations and Investigations.

Wanda Goldwag, Chair of the Office for Legal Complaints (OLC), said: “I am thrilled to have someone with Rebecca’s expertise in complaint-handling and ombudsman services on board at the Legal Ombudsman.”

Prior to joining the PHSO, Rebecca spent 10 years as a Commissioner at the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).

During her time at PHSO, she led a significant change programme in the way the Ombudsman works, with a core focus on service improvement and effective delivery. While as a Commissioner at the IPCC, Rebecca handled many complex investigations and cases.

Chief Legal Ombudsman Rebecca Marsh said: “I’m very excited about this important role. With much of my career in handling complaints, I am passionate about getting it right for everyone involved.”

Independent and impartial, The Legal Ombudsman investigates complaints and offers a free service to easily guide the public through the process of making complaints when they feel they have experienced poor service from regulated legal or claims management service providers.

Read the full press release here.

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4 January, 2018

The Legal Ombudsman’s Head of IT has been shortlisted in the Women in IT Awards 2018.

Nikki Greenway has been nominated in the Transformation Leader of the Year category.

She has been selected for her work in improving the IT network at the Legal Ombudsman, which was a key part of the organisation’s Modernising LeO programme. The main focus was to improve ways of working by introducing new and updated technology.

More than 1,100 business and technology leaders will gather for the Women in IT Awards at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London on 31 January.

The event, organised by Information Age in partnership with Amazon Web Services, showcases the achievements and innovation of women in technology.

Read more about Nikki and our Management Team here.

Further details on the Women in IT Awards event and nominations can be found here.

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LeO News is the Legal Ombudsman’s quarterly newsletter. In this edition, read about: Our new Language of Complaints research under the spotlight; a Q&A with a CILEx policy and public affairs manager plus latest news, research and more.

Click here to access the online version of LeO News 18.

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20 December, 2017

The Legal Ombudsman has responded to transparency consultations issued by frontline regulators. These consultation papers were written in line with recommendations made by the Competition and Markets Authority in the final report of its legal services market study.

This publication is directed to the following regulators:

  • Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA)
  • Bar Standards Board (BSB)
  • Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC)
  • CILEx Regulation
  • Intellectual Property Regulation Board (IPReg)
  • Master of the Faculties (MoF)

More information and a copy of our response can be viewed here.

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15 December, 2017

Today, the Legal Ombudsman responded to the SRA’s consultation on ‘Looking to the future: phase two of our Handbook reforms’.

More information and a copy of our response can be viewed here.

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14 December, 2017

The Legal Ombudsman and Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) have today published jointly commissioned independent research showing that there could be improvements in how some law firms deal with complaints.

The London Economics and YouGov findings show it makes good business sense to handle complaints well, with 93% of firms saying there are business benefits to doing this. These included keeping clients, improving the delivery of services and better customer insights.

However, 56% of the users of legal services said they had taken their complaint further, such as to the SRA or Legal Ombudsman – a figure that could be driven down if firms acted quickly to identify and resolve issues more quickly.

Only 34% of firms reported providing information to consumers about the Legal Ombudsman in writing at the end of the complaints procedure, even though solicitors are required by their own regulatory rules to do so.

The research found that most complaints are about delays or communication failures, most commonly relating to widely used legal services such as conveyancing, family law or wills and probate. When asked what people were looking for, the majority said an explanation, apology or work progressed.

Whereas firms say they are providing a final response to complaints within two months, one in five people says it took longer. Less than half said they were satisfied with the outcome of their complaint (43%), dropping to 23% for people with disabilities. People were most likely to be satisfied when complaining about a will and least likely when complaining about family matters or litigation.

Overall, firms’ views of client’s priorities do not always match what people see as important. People say their top three priorities are regular communication (62%), clear information about costs (60%) and the legal process (48%). Yet only one in five firms thought an explanation of the legal process was a top client priority. The perception that ‘winning’ matters most is also challenged with twice as many firms (64%) believing a positive legal outcome was a priority compared to the public (33%).

The research also supports both the SRA’s work and the findings of the Competition and Markets Authority that there is a lack of useful information for the public when making legal services choices. 91% of consumers said having access to firms’ complaints data would be helpful to them. Alongside, 36% of firms believe publishing this information will demonstrate that they deliver a good service.

The independent research was carried out by London Economics and YouGov and involved more than 500 law firms and 2,000 dissatisfied users of legal services.

Simon Tunnicliffe, Chief Legal Ombudsman, said: “This research highlights the importance of firms providing clients with clear information especially on complaint handling and signposting.

“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.”

Paul Philip, SRA Chief Executive, said: “It makes good business sense to handle complaints well. This report shows some firms are doing positive things to tackle problems, but there is still some way to go. This is not about template responses but understanding your client and responding to their individual needs and expectations.

“Importantly, nine out of ten people think that firm’s complaints data would be useful and over a third of firms agree. We are looking at how best to publish firm’s complaints data and this research supports that work. This is both an opportunity for firms and a chance to improve the customer experience.

The research also identified good practice examples and areas to improve on, such as:

  • acknowledging informal expressions of dissatisfaction as complaints, which stops them becoming formal complaints
  • communicating clearly with people to help manage expectations, increase client satisfaction and therefore reduce complaints
  • involving fee-earners in the complaints process, helping to improve their service and avoid future issues
  • giving clear information about services, what a client can expect and the complaints process
  • supporting people with a disability

The full research can be found here.

You can also see more information on the SRA website here.

Read the full press release here.

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