Lord Chancellor unveils legal shake-upLaw Society will not handle consumer complaints

24 May 2006

A major shake-up of the way consumers access the law has been announced by the Lord Chancellor today, at the offices of Which?.

The proposed changes include taking away the handling of consumers' complaints from the Law Society, and giving it to an independent Office for Legal Complaints. The new office will handle complaints against solicitors for poor or negligent service.

Which? has long criticised the Law Society's shoddy record on handling complaints and welcomes the move.

Other changes include one-stop shops that include all the professional services you might need for buying a house or for the legal and financial issues surrounding bereavement.

The Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer, also announced that a new board will regulate legal services. The Legal Services Board will oversee the Law Society and the Bar Council.

Lord Falconer, the Lord Chancellor, declared: 'We need 21st-century legal services for 21st- century consumers. Our reforms will deliver benefits both to consumers, and to the legal professions themselves.'

Which? legal services campaigner Louise Restell welcomed the proposals in the draft Legal Services Bill: 'It will allow new business structures, which we believe will further promote competition and choice for consumers.'

Louise Restell also called for the new regulatory body to be independent, and for the Office for Legal Complaints to have a lay chair and board who are experts in consumer affairs, complaints-handling and customer service.