Legal Ombudsman

I was at a talk by the Legal Ombudsman at Birmingham Law Society this week. Interesting – he has a robust style, is informal and is nobody’s fool.

He got his retaliation in first by pointing out that the ombudsman system is very much cheaper than what went before, and that they do not ask solicitors to throw money at a problem to make it go away.

The major bone of contention was the publication of data on adjudicated complaints. The solicitors I talked to all thought it deeply unfair that they could be named if no remedy was ordered. The Ombudsman’s response pointed out that there is a statutory requirement for a publication scheme, and that the Financial Ombudsman publishes everything.

I am not myself sure that this is a huge problem. Firstly, if no remedy is ordered, it might almost suggest that the firm has been tested and has passed. It also makes the point that not all complaints to the Ombudsman succeed, so discouraging the frivolous complainant. Lastly, even for upheld complaints, I am not sure that a single complaint will influence clients greatly. For the firm that had 15 out of 15 complaints upheld, things may be different!

Kudos to the Ombudsman for being prepared to interact with the profession, and at least to acknowledge its concerns.


Do Not Ignore the Ombudsman

At the Birmingham Trainee Solicitors’ Society meeting last night, one of my fellow speakers was the Deputy Legal Ombudsman, Gary Garland. He reminded everyone of the importance of telling your client what to expect, in plain language not legalese, and of ensuring that they understand.

He also reminded us of the recent Howard Young case. Young had a complaint against him, but steadfastly refused to deal with any requests from the Legal Ombudsman. Eventually, he was brought before the High Court for contempt,  and fined £5,000 with £15,500 costs. He could, of course, have been imprisoned. How employable does this now make him?

So do take the Ombudsman seriously, and if possible sort out client complaints before they get that far.