Avoiding complaints

Few people enjoy a complaint being made about their work. Here are seven learning points from our First-Tier Complaints Handling Survey 2017 to help you avoid complaints or deal successfully with them when they occur.

Our complaints survey gives us an insight into the types of complaints made to firms and the way firms deal with them. Take a look at this year’s Survey Report.

Seven key learning points

1. It may never be possible to satisfy all clients but the more that can be done from the outset to manage an individual’s expectations, the less likely that the case will attract a complaint. At the beginning of a case, it is vital to explain:

  • the likely cost, together with information about why this might change and how any change in cost will be communicated;
  • the likely outcome and/or likelihood of success; and
  • how long realistically it will take to conclude.

2. As a case progresses, it is essential to keep communicating with clients about these key areas of information. This is especially important when the initial information provided changes. A person is less likely to feel the need to complain if they have received updates, together with explanations for changes.

3. We recommend that, wherever possible, a colleague or supervisor investigates a complaint. This is of benefit to both the client and individual complained about.

4. It is good practice to ask for feedback on a firm’s complaints procedure, including from individuals who are not clients. This informs how necessary changes might be made, for example, to make the wording clear.

5. It is also essential that the complaints procedure covers all the areas required by the Legal Services Board (LSB) and the Legal Ombudsman (LeO). Help with this can be found on the CILEx Regulation website. It is worth noting that when a complaint is referred to the LeO, it will include an assessment of the quality of the first-tier complaints handling process as part of its investigation. The quality of the complaints handling process will also influence its decision on awarding costs. A clear and comprehensive complaints procedure should be provided to clients at the outset.

6. The internal complaints procedure must be clear, with easy-to-find information about how and when clients can contact the LeO. This is both a requirement of the LSB and good practice.

7. The LeO is impartial to both complainer and legal firm. A referral of a complaint to the LeO does not automatically mean that they find in the client’s favour. However, the LeO considers both the nature of the actual complaint and the quality of the firm’s handling of the complaint in the investigation. This includes information about the right to complain to the LeO being provided to the client at the beginning of the case.



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