Legal Ombudsman

The new Legal Ombudsman (LeO) has recently  (2010/2011) consulted on whether or not his decisions naming individual solicitors should be published, or kept secret.  Almost all the consultees, with the exception of the Law Society, were in favour of publication.   The purpose of this website is to publish decisions by LeO if he accepts the lobbying of the despicable and discredited Law Society (as did the Legal Complaints Service) and not publish his findings himself.  Please send your report to Reports@OmbudsmanReports.org.uk

News - 31st March 2011

The Ombudsman has published a preliminary report  regarding his publishing of decisions.  The following comment in this report is based on my own input:

"This information will be published anyway on consumers own websites or on solicitorsfromhell.co.uk and these sites could be misleading to consumers.  The Legal Ombudsman must therefore make sure that information is regulated and 
published in a controlled way with appropriate contextual  information."

LeO counters this comment with the following:

"The Legal Ombudsman will be seen as equivalent to solicitorsfromhell.co.uk and it will encourage other such 
websites to grow"

But later on in the report when addressing the comment  " Journalists are likely to misuse the data by publishing without appropriate context"  LeO goes on the opposite tack, and says

"Data can get into the public domain anyway.   It is the Legal Ombudsman‟s role to make sure that 
information is regulated and published in a controlled way with appropriate contextual  information."

I believe LeO should publish all upheld complaints with the names of solicitors.  People will put much more weight on an official report than a report by me or Joe Bloggs.

LeO has said "After we have issued our decision he [the complainant] can do what he likes with our findings: in our discussions about what we publish about the cases we deal with, we have always acknowledged that we cannot control what the complainant does. And certainly, if there are issues which emerge out of our work, it helps to have them in the public domain." 

If your complaint has been upheld by LeO please send LeO's report to Reports@OmbudsmanReports.org.uk.  

The disbanded Legal Complaints Service used to consider complaints and recently upheld a serious complaint against Sprake and Kingsley, solicitors in Bungay and Beccles, Norfolk.   You can read the details of  their adjudication here.    The complainants were not satisfied with this resolution and we hope the service provided by new Legal Ombudsman will be better.

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What's the difference between the new Legal Ombudsman and the Legal Services Ombudsman?

The new Legal Ombudsman replaces organisations like the discredited Legal Complaints Service (LCS), who used to deal with legal service complaints. If the client wasn't happy with the outcome or the service received by these bodies, they could ask for their complaint to be independently reviewed by the Legal Services Ombudsman (LSO). For the time being, clients still have the option of asking the LSO to review the way the old organisation dealt with their complaint, but the LSO will be abolished on 31 December 2011.  

A brief History of complaints handling by the Law Society

This is an early draft and is still being worked, more detail will follow in due course.  I have no wish to make false or misleading statements and corrections, comments and suggestions on this draft would be warmly welcomed.  Please send your comments to Comments@OmbudsmanReports.org.uk.

For more than 30 years the Law Society has failed the public but, on 30th October 2007, the new Legal Services Act was granted Royal Assent.  There will no doubt be a continued resistance by the Law Society whose primary role in the past has been to protect the Gravy Train for its members

The Society's representational role was a strong one from the beginning. The scrutiny of legislation and lobbying with the aid of solicitor MPs enabled the Society to develop a special relationship with government on law reform and the formulation of legal policy. The Law Society was determined to ensure that the Royal Courts of Justice were built close to the London headquarters and that laws were established to protect its own members.

Significant achievements of the Law Society that protect its members  to the disadvantage of the public include the Solicitors Act and various  Solicitors Remuneration Orders.  These statutes say a lot about fees, all to the advantage of the profession and against the consumer.  On top of a "normal" hourly rate (almost always over £200 per hour, and often £400 or more an hour)  solicitors are specifically permitted to charge additional but unspecified amounts of fees e.g. according to the amount of money involved, or if the matter is not simple, or is important to the client or if there is any urgency.   There are other factors listed in the statutes  that specifically enable solicitors to charge unquantified extras but  there are no figures and even these factors are not exclusive!   Obscene remuneration is frequently charged even for really trivial work and for travelling and waiting time, all supported by statute.   If you think I am exaggerating take a look here

If there was a Gardeners Act, we would be having to pay gardeners a normal rate of  £200 per hour and they would refer to these charges by the euphemism "our costs"  rather than "our charges" or "your costs".  Charges in excess of the normal rate would apply depending on the colour of the plants, the type of soil, the weather and whether or not your garden is important to you!

Here is a brief history of the way the Law Society has failed the public time and time again:

1.  Royal Commission on Legal Services - Recommendation 36 was that the Law Society should investigate allegations of bad professional work.  It never has investigated allegations of bad professional work or negligence and still insists that aggrieved clients  should consult other lawyers if they desire compensation.  
This is an understandable stance for the Law Society to take since the consequence is one of two convenient outcomes,  The client, being extremely upset at 
having already wasted a large sum of life savings on lawyers is unlikely to risk even more.  Or, if he is willing to take this risk, 
it means even more money for lawyers.
 

Here are some examples of recommendations of the expensive Royal Commission that have been ignored to this day

25.35  (p345) "The Law Society should deal not only with questions of professional misconduct but also complaints 
of incompetence or inefficiency."   [To quote the Legal Complaints Service, they defined their role (and this is also the role of the new Ombudsman) to be to investigate allegations of what they consider to be "bad service" but not bad work, bad advice, incompetence or bad conduct.]

R25.5 (p351)  "It should be the responsibility of the Law Society to take action where cases of bad professional work are brought to its notice.  The 
existence of a potential claim at law by the complainant or provision in indemnity insurance policies do 
not absolve the LS from this responsibility".  [This has never been implemented by any of the legal complaints services & procedures]

R25.6  "The Law Society should ensure that independant legal advice is available for those who allege 
negligence against solicitors" .  [In the case of my Sprake and Kingsley complaint the LCS refused to provide the free half-hour of legal advice because they said it was only available for simple cases.  As they said my case was complex I was not entitled to any independent advice at all!]

R25.10 "Laymen should be involved in the process of investigation and adjudication of complaints"

2.  Law Society refuses several times to say whether or not they have implemented recommendation 36.  They have not implemented that recommendation to this day.

3.  Law Society successfully  prosecutes Francis Reynolds (Mr Whatisname), and others for completing trivial land registry forms and attempting to break the solicitors  conveyancing monopoly

3a. Conveyancing monopoly strengthened.  The Law Society had no hesitation in ensuring this recommendation of the Royal Commission was implemented

4.  In 1983, following dissatisfaction with their complaints handling the Society established the supposedly independant  Office for the Supervision of Solicitors (OSS) to deal with complaints about solicitors.  

5.  13 Sep 2004 The Law Society could face a fine of up to £1m if it fails to deal with complaints, it was announced today 

6.  2006: Office for the Supervision of Solicitors (OSS) discredited and disbanded,  Legal Complaints Service formed (LCS).  However they will only deal with allegations which they consider to be  "bad service".  The LCS will not deal with allegations of overcharging, incompetence, bad work, wrong advice, negligence, conflict of interest, misconduct or improper behaviour.   These matters are for  the client to pay other solicitors to investigate.

7. May 2006 The Legal Services Complaints Commissioner, Zahida Manzoor has fined the Law Society £250,000, because the society has refused to agree that complainants should receive a letter setting out the main points of their complaint within two months, rather than three. Ms Manzoor has two roles: first, as the Legal Services Complaints Commissioner sets targets and second, as the as Legal Services Ombudsman has power to levy a fine of up to £1 million.

8. 16 Nov 2007 The commissioner, Zahida Manzoor, says she is disappointed the Legal Complaints Service (LCS) and the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) failed to meet five of the 13 targets she set, particularly as most of those missed related to the quality of complaints handling. 

“I am concerned that early indications show that the LCS and SRA are falling behind the agreed 2007–08 targets. The Law Society now needs to deliver on all aspects of its performance.”

9.  03 June 2008  The Law Society and the Legal Complaints Service (LCS) have reacted to news that Legal Services Complaints Commissioner Zahida Manzoor is to levy a fine of £275,000 in relation to its complaints handling plan for 2008/09.

10. 21st Oct 2008  Online publishing of legal complaints delayed.  Proposals to make complaints against solicitors publicly available on the internet have been put on hold.

11.  2010.  LCS disbanded and discredited, Legal Ombudsman created.

12. December 2010 Legal Ombudsman consults on whether his findings against individual solicitors should be published as is, or kept secret, or published but not mention the delinquent solicitor's names.  However, he admits to having no objection if individual complainants publish his adjudications with names:

Legal Ombudsman's Blog, 22nd December 2010

"After we have issued our decision he [the complainant] can do what he likes with our findings: in our discussions about what we publish about the cases we deal with, we have always acknowledged that we cannot control what the complainant does. And certainly, if there are issues which emerge out of our work, it helps to have them in the public domain. 


13. January 2011.  Web sites www.OmbudsmanReports.org.uk and www.Legal-Complaints.co.uk established for the publication of adjudicated complaints, just in case the LeO decides not to publish them himself.

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