Law Society failureLaw Society rapped for aiming low

03 April 2006

The body which polices solicitors' in England and Wales could be fined after its plan for handling complaints was thrown out for being 'inadequate' and letting down consumers.

Last September, the Law Society was asked to put forward a plan on how it could improve its complaint-handling over 12 months starting from April this year.

The move came after it emerged some people were waiting three months before the Law Society acknowledged the various issues raised in the complaint.

Legal Services Complaints Commissioner

Legal Services Complaints Commissioner (LSCC) Zahida Manzoor subsequently told the Law Society to reduce this to two months, and to set itself other targets for improving handling of complaints.

But the plan which the Law Society has produced failed to include all the targets she suggested. For instance, there was no target to write to a complainant to acknowledge the issues raised within 60 days.

Ms Manzoor today slated the plan as 'inadequate' and said it didn't deliver 'sufficient improvements in complaints handling which consumers and practitioners expect and deserve'.

Ms Manzoor, who is now looking at whether the Law Society should be fined, also accused the body of being 'too quick to rely on increasing its budget and resource as the main way of improving its service.'

Need for reform

Louise Restell, of Which? Campaigns, said: 'This latest failure by the Law Society just reinforces the need for reform. Government proposals for a new, independent Office for Legal Complaints are welcome but must be fast-tracked to ensure consumers with complaints about solicitors don't suffer any longer from such poor customer service.'

Professor Shamit Saggar, Chair of the Law Society's Consumer Complaints Service, said: 'The LSCC's decision is disappointing, because our proposals would significantly benefit consumers of legal services. They are ambitious and build on the achievements of recent years, which we are determined to continue. However, we do not believe the LSCC's targets are realistic.'