With only 7 days to go to the implementation of the ADR Directive, lawyers are contacting us to get their arrangements in place to deal with client complaints. After 1 October, they all need to inform clients of a certified ADR provider to deal with any unresolved complaints. This includes barristers offering direct access, as well as licensed conveyancers and will writers, of course. The body that would be expected in some ways to take over this role would be the Legal Ombudsman, but it has withdrawn from the application process.
Here at ProMediate we are on a mission to help solicitors to deal with client complaints more effectively and to promote mediation generally.
The Legal Ombudsman is consulting into changes to its scheme rules which would be necessary for it to become an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) entity. The consultation will run for eight weeks, until 2 November.
It is suggested that these changes would enable it to apply to the Legal Services Board (LSB) for certification as an ADR entity, although further changes may follow.
Interim Chief Ombudsman, Kathryn King, commented: “The OLC believes it would be in the interests of both the legal and claims management sectors and consumers that we become an ADR entity. However, it is keen to consider all views before reaching a decision about this.”
The ombudsman is also hosting a consultation event for key stakeholders today (23 September) to provide them with an opportunity to discuss proposals face to face. By the time this post is published they will most likely have sat down with their coffees and will have started trying to explain themselves to stakeholders.
Were I permitted to attend this meeting, apart from asking why the Legal Ombudsman has left it so late to consider this issue so that it misses the 1 October deadline, my pertinent questions would be:
1. Who will be paying for the increase in numbers of complaints dealt with?
2. How many additional complaints are anticipated to be received?
3. How will the Legal Ombudsman deal with the complaints in the time required?
4. How does the Legal Ombudsman’s stance on professional negligence complaints tie in with the Regulations requirements for refusals?
5. Will complaints statistics be published, naming firms and what will be the criteria for reporting misconduct?
6. How will the Legal Ombudsman deal with stale claims, if it removes the limitation period for complaints and extends the time for complaints to 12 months?
7. How will this affect lawyers’ professional indemnity insurance?
These are key questions for the profession to ask if they get the opportunity.
The consultation can be accessed here: http://www.legalombudsman.org.uk/?portfolio=proposed-adr-scheme-rules-published-for-consultation
EU legislation requires all businesses to signpost consumers to an alternative route to obtaining redress if they are not happy with services or goods they have purchased. However, the Legal Ombudsman does not currently comply with the regulations that apply to ADR entities, and would need to make changes to its scheme rules in order to do so.
Providers of regulated legal services and claims management companies are already required to signpost to the Legal Ombudsman and this will continue.Disclaimer: The information and any commentary on the law contained in this article is for information purposes only. No responsibility for the accuracy and correctness of the information and commentary or for any consequences of relying on it, is assumed by the author. The information and commentary does not, and is not intended to amount to legal advice to any person on a specific case or matter. The article was written on the date shown and may not represent the law as it stands subsequently. For the avoidance of doubt, the views in this article are personal to the author and not attributable to any other individual or organisation.