Complaints’ Policy & Procedure
Revised April 2023
Cobleys is committed to providing a high-quality legal service to all our clients. When something goes wrong or 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. This will help us to improve our standards. You should complain to us within a year of realising your concern.
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. However, if you wish to make a formal complaint, please contact Mr Eric Williams, our Senior Director and Complaints Director. Please put your complaint in writing to him at 19-23 Sir Thomas Street, Liverpool L1 6BW. Mr Williams will investigate your complaint with the department and fee earner concerned. Mr. Williams may nominate a senior member of staff to deal with your complaint.
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 https://www.sra.org.uk/consumers/problems/report-solicitor.page
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 six months of receiving a final response to your complaint
- No more than six years from the date of act/omission; or
- No more than three 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.
Call: 0300 555 0333 between 9am to 5pm.
Legal Ombudsman PO Box 6806, Wolverhampton, WV1 9WJ
What is a complaint?
A complaint can be any expression of dissatisfaction. Many complaints are initially made informally, for example, you may telephone to say that a minor matter has not been dealt with within a stated timescale.
While you may not be making a formal complaint, you are expressing dissatisfaction about an element of the service that you have received. We must notice these cues and deal with the issue promptly, if possible.
We must explain to you how the problem might be resolved informally, as well as highlighting the formal complaints process where necessary.
Who can complain?
Most complaints to the practice are likely to come from clients. However, others, including third parties, other professionals and suppliers, may also complain. We shall handle complaints in accordance with the SRA Standards and Regulations 2019.
The Legal Ombudsman will accept complaints from individuals and small businesses, charities, clubs, societies, associations and trusts.
If a complainant has referred a complaint to the Legal Ombudsman, but is no longer able to pursue it, someone else can continue the complaint in some circumstances, such as if they have lasting power of attorney or are the executor of the complainant’s will.
While the Legal Ombudsman only accepts complaints from certain sources, we shall consider all complaints regardless of the source. Complaints about service can highlight problems or areas for improvement within our practice, and handling these complaints well may protect the firm’s reputation.
Telling clients about their rights
We must inform clients in writing of their right to complain and how complaints can be made, at the outset of their matter.
We must signpost our clients, in writing, to the Legal Ombudsman at the start of the retainer and at the end of our complaints process. We must provide clients with details for contacting the Legal Ombudsman and the timeframe for doing so.
Clients must be informed of their right to complain about or challenge their bill. Clients can challenge their bill by applying for an assessment of the bill under Part III of the Solicitors Act 1974. We should inform clients that the Legal Ombudsman may not consider a complaint about the bill if a client has applied to the court for assessment of the bill. We must also inform clients about when we may be able to charge interest on all, or part of, a bill.
Who should handle a complaint?
This will depend on how the complaint is made, to whom it is made and what is about.
All staff should understand the complaints process and their role in it. Not every complaint needs to be dealt with through a formal process: if the firm receives a complaint about a failure to return a phone call, for example, this may be resolved by the recipient promptly calling back and apologising.
However, if the complaint is in the form of a formal letter or email to the Complaints’ Director, Mr Eric Williams, the complaints process will be instigated.
Staff must discuss with line management when they should handle a complaint, and when it should be dealt with by a more senior member of staff or the Complaints’ Director.
What will happen next?
- We will record your complaint in our central register and note your complaint on your file. We will do this within two working days of receiving your complaint.
- We will send you a letter acknowledging your complaint and we may ask you to confirm or explain the details set out. We will also let you know the name of the person who will be dealing with your complaint. You can expect to receive our letter within seven days of us receiving your complaint.
- We will acknowledge any reply to our acknowledgement letter and confirm what will happen next. You can expect to hear from us within seven days of your reply.
- We will then start to investigate your complaint. This may involve one or more of the following steps: –
- We may have to retrieve your file from our offsite secure storage facility
- We may ask the member of staff who acted for you for their comments regarding your complaint within five working days;
- We may examine their comments and the information in your file. We may then ask them for more information. This will take up to five working days from receiving their reply and the file.
- We may ask you for more information
- We may ask you to attend a meeting
- We will respond to your complaint in writing within 28 days of receiving it and shall endeavour to resolve it to your satisfaction. If we are unable to respond fully within this time, the person dealing with your complaint will contact you before the end of the 28-day period to provide you with an update and an indication of how long it will take to respond fully. We must respond to you fully within eight weeks of receiving your complaint and we shall include information about an approved alternative dispute resolution (ADR) entity in our final letter.
- If, after our investigation and response including any suggested resolution, you are still not satisfied, you can write to us again within 14 days of our letter. We will then arrange to review our decision. This will happen in one of the following ways: –
- The Senior Director may arrange for someone in the firm, who has not been involved in your complaint, to review it
- Eric Williams, our Senior Director, will review your complaint
- Exceptionally, we may ask a barrister or another firm of solicitors to review your complaint or refer the complaint to an Alternative Dispute Resolution entity
- We may invite you to agree to independent mediation
We will let you know how long this process will take.
- We will let you know the result of the review within 28 days of requesting it. At this time, we will write to you confirming our final position on your complaint and explaining our reasons.
If we have to change any of the timescales above, we will let you know and explain why.
- If you are not satisfied with our handling of your complaint, you should refer your concerns to the Legal Ombudsman within six months of our final response.
The Legal Ombudsman is an independent organisation with powers to resolve complaints about legal services when issues have not been resolved between an individual and their lawyer. Their help does not cover the legal advice you received from a lawyer or the disappointment you feel because you disagree with the outcome of a court case.
The Legal Ombudsman will normally only consider a complaint after the complainant has made the complaint to the practice and the practice has failed to resolve it to the complainant’s satisfaction.
From 1st April 2023, the time limits for referring a complaint to the Legal Ombudsman is no later than:
- One year from the date of the act or omission being complained about; or
- One year from the date when the complainant should have realised that there was cause for complaint.
Once a complaint is referred to the Legal Ombudsman, a caseworker will investigate the complaint and make recommendations.
If you, the complainant, and Cobleys accept these recommendations, then no further action will be taken. If either side does not agree with the recommendations, then the case can be taken to the Ombudsman for a decision. If you, the complainant accepts the decision then it is binding on Cobleys.
You should contact the Legal Ombudsman within six months of your last contact with us.
They can be contacted by telephone on 0300 555 0333, Minicom 0300 555 1777 or by writing to:
The Legal Ombudsman
PO Box 6806
WV1 9WJ Website: www.legalombudsman.org.uk
- Responsibility for implementation of the policy
The Senior Director has overall responsibility for the effective operation of this policy, supported by the Directors and Chief Executive.
- Monitoring and review of this policy
The Senior Director, assisted by the Chief Executive will be responsible for reviewing this policy annually to ensure its effective operation across the firm and that it reflects best practice.