I pursued an errant tenant for a year’s rent, finally 2 years later after using private detectives, and several contested court hearings, I finally won the case and all costs in the High Court, only to have the solicitor never release the funds from their client account & the funds were lost when the partnership dissolved. Apparently from various phone calls to the Law Society etc etc back then there wasn’t an awful lot I could do about it in practice, except be less trusting and more cautious next time.
Last week there was a new Sheriff in town, a £20m body set up by Government to ensure that my sort of story cannot happen in a modern fair society. The Ombudsman service puts lawyers on the receiving end of justice aiming to deliver swift but fair decisions through a simplified complaints process.
Note: Legal Ombudsman is NOT the same as the The Legal Services Ombudsman – a service whose function it replaces, and a Quango which the Government announced that it was closing yesterday.
Our job is to resolve legal complaints in a fair and independent way – we will not take sides.
• We are the Legal Ombudsman for England and Wales. We have been set up by the Office for Legal Complaints (our Board) under the Legal Services Act 2007. Parliament wanted to simplify the system and make sure consumers had access to an independent expert to resolve complaints.
• We opened on 6 October 2010.
• Our service is open to all members of the public, very small businesses, charities, clubs and trusts. Our service is free to these consumers.
• We can get involved in different types of complaints about legal services. Some examples are wills, family issues such as divorce, personal injury and buying or selling a house. There are many others.
• We are independent and impartial. This means that when we start to receive complaints, we will look at the facts in each case and weigh both sides of the story.
• We are not consumer champions or part of the legal profession, and we are also independent of Government.
• If we decide the service you received was unsatisfactory, we can ask the lawyer and the firm to put it right. We may also say that we think that your lawyer provided a reasonable service – if we think this, we will explain why.
Well that sounds good to me!
7 October 2010
Legal Ombudsman takes 497 calls and emails on its first day.
11 October 2010
Welcome Day, LeO welcomes its second wave of new team members as they arrive to start their training.
The ombudsman will be funded by a levy on lawyers and by additional fees paid when complaints are upheld, following a series of controversies about lawyers being regulated by bodies which were perceived as too close to the profession, and which followed a legalistic and in some cases lengthy process. The old system was tainted by the idea that they were the representatives of the profession not the consumer.
The scheme’s chief ombudsman is Adam Sampson, the former director of the homelessness charity Shelter, who says they expected to receive around 100,000 complaints each year. “We are hoping to resolve the majority in an informal manner and to do things quickly.”
The expectation of dealing with 100,000 cases a year is interesting when compared to the work of the first Ombudsman service which started on 2 January 1991. During the first decade of operation, that Ombudsman undertook 10,531 investigations:
- 9,456 complaints about solicitors;
- 1,036 complaints about barristers; and
- 39 complaints about licensed conveyancers.
Around 60% of the firms of solicitors in England and Wales and around 8% of practising barristers were subject of a complaint to the Ombudsman in that time.
Congratulations to the new team on preparing to deal with a caseload 100 times greater than the old system.