Social Welfare Lawyers in the Centre of Birmingham

Complaints Information

We want to give you the best possible service. However, if at any point you become unhappy or concerned about the service we have provided then you should inform us immediately, so that we can do our best to resolve the problem.

In the first instance it may be helpful to contact the person who is working on your case to discuss your concerns and we will do our best to resolve any issues at this stage. If you would like to make a formal complaint, then you can read our full ‘Complaints Handling Procedure’  at the bottom of this page.

Making a complaint will not affect how we handle your case.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority can help you if you are concerned about our behaviour. This could be for things like dishonesty, taking or losing your money or treating you unfairly because of your age, a disability or other characteristic. You can raise your concerns with the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

What do to if we cannot resolve your complaint

The Legal Ombudsman can help you if we are unable to resolve your complaint ourselves. They will look at your complaint independently and it will not affect how we handle your case.

Before accepting a complaint for investigation, the Legal Ombudsman will check that you have tried to resolve your complaint with us first. If you have, then you must take your complaint to the Legal Ombudsman:

  • Within 6 months of receiving a final response to your complaint and
  • No more than 6 years from the date of the act/omission; or
  • No more than 3 years from when you should reasonably have known there was cause for complaint.

If you would like more information about the Legal Ombudsman, please contact them.

Website:         www.legalombudsman.org.uk
Telephone:     0300 555 0333 between 9am to 5pm Monday – Friday
Email:             enquiries@legalombudsman.org.uk
Address:         Legal Ombudsman PO Box 6806, Wolverhampton, WV1 9WJ

Complaints Handling Procedure

8.3.1      Rosaleen Kilbane is the person responsible for the Complaints Handling Procedure and is also the Complaints Handling Partner.  If a complaint is against Rosaleen Kilbane then Chris Johnson is the partner designated to deal with those complaints and as such any reference to Rosaleen Kilbane in the following paragraphs 8.3.2 to 8.3.6.1 with be replaced by Chris Johnson in those circumstances. The Complaints Handling procedure is reviewed annually in January.

8.3.2      As required by The Solicitors’ Regulation Authority, we have a procedure for dealing with complaints from clients. We try to resolve as many as possible within the Firm to stop complaints escalating to The Legal Ombudsman and preserve the goodwill of the client; even if things have gone wrong.

8.3.3      We acknowledge that some of the complaints about us will be well founded. We all make mistakes and a fee earner should be honest and candid when a mistake has been made. Complaints must be dealt with sympathetically and quickly; the Firm’s reputation depends on this.

8.3.4      What Constitutes a Complaint?

8.3.4.1        A complaint is any expression of client dissatisfaction which the fee earner is unable immediately to resolve. For example, if a client simply complains that it has taken 30 minutes to return a call; clearly this does not amount to a ‘complaint’. However, if a client complains that there is continual delay in returning calls or that calls are not returned at all; that constitutes a complaint.

8.3.4.2        We call them ‘formal’ complaints, and we treat them all in the same way even if an individual complaint may appear to be based on, for example, an unrealistic expectation of what we can do.

8.3.4.3        Clients are notified in our client care letters that they have a right to complain. If they do complain, they must be given a copy of this complaints procedure.

8.3.4.4        Rosaleen Kilbane will look objectively at the file, and ask for full details from the client either in writing or by interview.

8.3.4.5        Once a complaint has been made, the person complaining will be told in writing that a substantive response will be given within 8 weeks. The whole object is to ensure that the client:-

8.3.4.5.1     is satisfied that the complaint has been dealt with seriously;

8.3.4.5.2     gets a prompt response;

8.3.4.5.3     an assurance that the matter is being reviewed;

8.3.4.5.4     is notified as soon as possible of the outcome.

8.3.4.6        The client may not be lost to the Firm. Even though a fee earner may not agree that the complaint has any validity, the response from the Firm may be to agree with some elements of the complaint and to assure the client that an effort will be made to remedy the problem.

8.3.4.7        In the event that the immediate investigation results in being unable to remedy the complaint then the client’s right to refer the matter to the Legal Ombudsman should be restated.

8.3.5      Remedies Open to the Client

8.3.5.1        As a matter of course and after prior liaison with our professional indemnity insurers where appropriate, we will make an apology on behalf of the Firm and an assurance that the problem will not occur again, and that we will try to do better. If a complaint is justified we:

8.3.5.1.1     Will notify the client again of their right to complain to the Legal Ombudsman and remind the client of the Legal Ombudsman’s full contact details:

Telephone: 0300 555 0333 (8.30am–5.30pm Mon-Fri)
Address: PO Box 6806, Wolverhampton, WV1 9WJ
Email: enquiries@legalombudsman.org.uk
Website address:  www.legalombudsman.org.uk

8.3.5.1.2     Will notify the client of their right to see another solicitor and obtain advice as to whether we have been negligent.

8.3.6      What Happens After a Complaint?

8.3.6.1        Hopefully the client will be satisfied and the Firm will continue with the file. In some circumstances, if the solicitor/client relationship has broken down completely, it may be better for another Firm to take the file over. It is the responsibility of Rosaleen Kilbane to make this decision. If the original fee earner does continue with the file, every effort must be made to repair any damage in the relationship with the client.

8.3.7      Time Periods for Dealing with the complaint

8.3.7.1        There is a time period within which the Firm must resolve the complaint to the satisfaction of the client, usually 8 weeks. This is very important as the client has the right to refer the matter to The Legal Ombudsman (if they are not happy with our response and/or the way that we have handled the complaint).  Any complaint to the Legal Ombudsman needs to be taken within six months of receiving a final written response from us or within six years of the act or omission about which you are complaining occurring (or if outside this period, within three years of when you should reasonably have been aware of it). It is the responsibility of Rosaleen Kilbane to diarise the 8 week period and also the expiry of the relevant 6 month period.

8.3.7.2        However, there are exceptions and additional detail to these basic time limits and we now set out the relevant extract from the Legal Ombudsman’s Scheme Rules (which can be found on their website) in this regard:

“4    When complaints can be referred to the Legal Ombudsman

          After complaining to the authorised person

          4.1     Ordinarily, a complainant cannot use the Legal Ombudsman unless the complainant has first used the authorised person’s complaints procedure (referred to in chapter three).32

          Time limit from authorised person’s final response

          4.2     But a complainant can use the Legal Ombudsman if:33

  1. a) the complaint has not been resolved to the complainant’s satisfaction within eight weeks of being made to the authorised person; or
  2. b) an ombudsman considers that there are exceptional reasons to consider the complaint sooner, or without it having been made first to the authorised person; or
  3. c) where an ombudsman considers that in-house resolution is not possible due to irretrievable breakdown in the relationship between an authorised person and the person making the complaint.

          4.3     For example, an ombudsman may decide that the Legal Ombudsman should consider the complaint where the authorised person has refused to consider it, or where delay would harm the complainant.

          4.4     a)      This time limit applies only if the authorised person’s written response to a complaint included prominently:

  • an explanation that the Legal Ombudsman was available if the complainant remained dissatisfied;
  • full contact details for the Legal Ombudsman; and
  • a warning that the complaint must be referred to the Legal Ombudsman within six months of the date of the written response;
  1. b) If (but only if) the conditions in (a) are satisfied, a complainant must ordinarily refer the complaint to the Legal Ombudsman within six months of the date of that written response.

          Time limit from act/omission

          4.5 Ordinarily:

  1. a) the act or omission, or when the complainant should reasonably have known there was cause for complaint, must have been after 5 October 2010; and
  2. b) the complainant must refer the complaint to the Legal Ombudsman no later than:

                            – six years from the act/omission; or

                            – three years from when the complainant should reasonably have known there was cause for complaint.34

          4.6 In relation to 4.5(b):

  1. a) where a complaint is referred by a personal representative or beneficiary of the estate of a person who, before he/she died, had not referred the complaint to the Legal Ombudsman, the period runs from when the deceased should reasonably have known there was cause for complaint; and
  2. b) when the complainant (or the deceased) should reasonably have known there was a cause for complaint will be assessed on the basis of the complainant’s (or the deceased’s) own knowledge, disregarding what the complainant (or the deceased) might have been told if he/she had sought advice.

          Ombudsman extending time limits

          4.7     If an ombudsman considers that there are exceptional circumstances, he/she may extend any of these time limits to the extent that he/she considers fair.35

          4.8     For example an Ombudsman:

  1. a) might extend a time limit if the complainant was prevented from meeting the time limit as a result of serious illness; and
  2. b) is likely to extend a time limit where the time limit had not expired when the complainant raised the complaint with the authorised person.”