25 November 2017

First Tier Complaints Handling

1. This guidance supplements Section D1.1 of the Code of Conduct. It covers three areas:

a. the scope of chambers complaints handling

b. the obligation to notify clients of their right to complain

c. guidance to chambers in developing chambers complaint procedures

2. References to "client" in this guidance are to the lay client.

A. Scope of chambers complaints handling

3. Complaints are expressions of dissatisfaction by clients. This guidance draws a distinction between complaints that relate to service, professional negligence and misconduct. A single complaint may have elements of all three and the obligations on chambers are different for each aspect.

Service complaints

4. The requirements set out in Section D1.1 of the Code of Conduct relate to the handling of service complaints which are within the jurisdiction of the Legal Ombudsman.

5. Chapter 2 of the Legal Ombudsman's scheme rules set out the types of complaint that are within its jurisdiction. These are complaints that relate to an act or omission by an authorised person in relation to services provided to the complainant (directly or indirectly).

6. In addition, the Legal Ombudsman's website sets out a list of the categories of complaint which it investigates. These include the following categories (some of which may also include aspects of negligence or misconduct):

  • Costs information deficient
  • Costs excessive
  • Delay
  • Unreasonably refused a service to a complainant
  • Persistently or unreasonably offered a service that the complainant does not want
  • Failure to advise
  • Failure to comply with agreed remedy
  • Failure to follow instructions
  • Failure to investigate complaint internally
  • Failure to keep complainant informed of progress
  • Failure to keep papers safe
  • Failure to progress complainant's case
  • Failure to release files or papers
  • Failure to reply

Misconduct and Professional Negligence

7. Chambers may not be best placed to seek to resolve or provide redress for complaints which relate to misconduct or professional negligence and there is no positive obligation to investigate matters of misconduct.

8. However, it is likely that in many cases a complaint which raises issues relating to professional misconduct or professional negligence will also amount to an accusation of the provision of poor service or will include a service element. Where this is the case, the service issues should be dealt with in accordance with Section D1.1 of the Code of Conduct. It is not acceptable for chambers not to investigate elements of a complaint which relate to service because the complaint also amounts to, or includes elements which relate to, misconduct or could potentially give rise to a negligence claim. 

9. Complainants should be informed in writing if any aspects of their complaint are deemed to be outside of chambers' complaints handling procedures. This should include information on how to complain to the Legal Ombudsman.

Barristers are also reminded that they must report promptly to the BSB if they have committed serious misconduct. In addition, subject to their duty to keep the affairs of each client confidential, barristers must report to the BSB if they have reasonable grounds to believe that there has been serious misconduct by another barrister. The relevant provisions of the BSB Handbook are Rules C65 - C69 and Guidance C95 - C102. Guidance C96 in particular provides examples of what serious misconduct includes without being exhaustive. Further guidance on reporting serious misconduct of others is also available on the BSB's website: https://www.barstandardsboard.org.uk/regulatory-requirements/bsb-handbook/code-guidance/

Bar Mutual Indemnity Fund

10. Where a complaint raises an allegation of negligence it may be appropriate to inform BMIF and to consult them before any proposals for resolution are made to the client.

Non-client complaints

11. The Legal Ombudsman will only deal with complaints from consumers of lawyers' services. This means that only complaints from the barrister's clients fall within the Ombudsman's jurisdiction. This does not mean that non-client complaints should not be investigated by Chambers. Some non-client complaints, such as discourtesy, may be capable of resolution by Chambers. However, the BSB recognises that Chambers' ability to resolve many kinds of non-client complaints is limited and that they are more suited to consideration under the disciplinary processes of the Bar Standards Board. Accordingly, if Chambers feel that the issues raised by non-clients cannot be satisfactorily resolved through the Chambers complaints process they should refer the complainant to the Bar Standards Board.

B. Notifying the client of the right to complain

The New Regime

11. From 6 October 2010, Barristers must notify clients in writing at the time of engagement or if not practicable at the next appropriate opportunity:

(a) Of their right to make a complaint, how and to whom this can be done, including their right to complain to the Legal Ombudsman at the conclusion of the complaints process, the timeframe for doing so and the full details of how to contact the Legal Ombudsman;

(b) That the lay client may complain directly to Chambers without going through solicitors

12. At the conclusion of the complaints process, complainants must be informed in writing of their right to complain to the Legal Ombudsman, who from 6 October 2010 has taken on responsibility for dealing with all service complaints against legal professionals, the timeframe for doing so and the full details of how to contact them.

Complaints to chambers

13. The Legal Services Board (LSB) have specified a requirement to which the BSB is obliged to give effect under s112(2) of the Legal Services Act 2007. The requirement relates to "first-tier" complaints which, and so far as self-employed barristers are concerned, relate to the procedure whereby a client makes a complaint to Chambers in the first instance.

14. The LSB seeks to ensure consumers have confidence that:

(a) complaint handling procedures provide effective safeguards for them

(b) complaints will be dealt with comprehensively and swiftly, with appropriate redress where necessary.

15. Chambers complaint handling processes must be convenient and easy to use (in particular for those that are vulnerable or have disabilities). They should make provision for complaints to be made by any reasonable means. The way in which complaints are dealt with must be transparent and clear in relation to process, well publicised and free. The process itself should be prompt and fair, with decisions based on a sufficient investigation of the circumstances. Where appropriate, there should be an offer of a suitable remedy.

16. Most consumers will be able to make a complaint to the Legal Ombudsman about the services they received after they have exhausted Chambers complaints processes. Sufficient information must be provided to all clients to identify whether they do have a right to take their complaint to the Legal Ombudsman and to contact the Legal Ombudsman direct to clarify whether they can.

17. Please note that the Legal Ombudsman, the independent complaints body for service complaints about lawyers, has time limits in which a complaint must be raised with them. The time limits are:

a) Six years from the date of the act/omission

b) Three years from the date that the complainant should reasonably have known there were grounds for complaint (if the act/omission took place before the 6 October 2010 or was more than six years ago)

c) Within six months of the complaint receiving a final response from their lawyer, if that response complies with the requirements in rule 4.4 of the Scheme Rules (which requires the response to include prominently an explanation that the Legal Ombudsman was available if the complainant remained dissatisfied and the provision of full contact details for the Ombudsman and a warning that the complaint must be referred to them within six months

18. The Ombudsman can extend the time limit in exceptional circumstances. Chambers must therefore have regard to that timeframe when deciding whether they are able to investigate your complaint. Chambers will not therefore usually deal with complaints that fall outside of the Legal Ombudsman's time limits.

19. Clients who have, or may have, a right to complain to the legal Ombudsman, must at the conclusion of the complaint process be informed of their right to complain to the Legal Ombudsman, the timeframe for doing so and full details of how to contact the Legal Ombudsman.

20. Where a barrister accepts instructions from a new client, or instructions on a new matter from an existing client, the client must be notified of the right to make a complaint, how and to whom this can be done. It is essential that systems be set up by Chambers to ensure that these requirements are properly complied with. This will be straightforward for public access clients, but because self-employed barristers will usually be instructed by a solicitor or other professional client on behalf of the client, new procedures will need to be put in place for notifying other clients.

Compliance with requirements to notify clients

21. The LSB has specified a requirement that the BSB must require all individuals and entities they regulate to notify all clients in writing at the time of engagement, or existing clients at the next appropriate opportunity, of their right to make a complaint, how and to whom this can be done (including their right to complain to the Legal Ombudsman at the conclusion of the complaint process, the timeframe for doing so and full details of how to contact the Legal Ombudsman).

22. The Bar Standards Board is required to enforce the LSB requirement and compliance by Chambers. The BSB will monitor Chambers to ensure that the requirement is being complied with.

23. Significant concerns have been expressed by barristers in a variety of fields of practice that a requirement to notify clients directly of their right to complain would be difficult or impossible to comply with. The BSB are fully aware of these concerns and have discussed them with the LSB. The guidance below is set out to assist barristers and Chambers in setting up systems to effect compliance with the requirement of the LSB in a way that is neither disproportionate nor onerous.

24. Where the barrister is aware of the contact details for the client, the obligation can be satisfied by a letter or e-mail sent directly to the client (which may be sent by someone else on his behalf) providing the required information.

25. If the information has not been provided beforehand in writing, it may be provided on the first occasion that the barrister meets the client at court, or in conference.

26. Subject to the points made below, it is not acceptable for barristers simply to make the information available to solicitors. Nor is it sufficient that the information is available on Chambers' website. There is a positive obligation on the barrister to provide it to the client.

27. An unequivocal agreement by the professional client to pass on chambers' complaint information to the client, either in a particular case, or in relation to each case in which a member of chambers is instructed by that professional client, will serve to discharge the obligation to provide the client with the information. However, there must be a positive agreement on the part of the professional client: silence is not sufficient. Where Chambers receive high volume instructions from a particular professional client it will not be necessary to obtain written confirmation in relation to each instruction. In those circumstances, positive written confirmation should be obtained at regular and reasonable intervals from the professional client that complaints information continues to be passed on to lay clients.

Client information sheets

28. Some barristers may be unhappy at the prospect that the first thing they do when they meet the client is to advise the client how to make a complaint. A "client information sheet" is one way in which the information may be communicated to the client. The information sheet giving details about the barrister as well as information on how to complain could be given to the client by the barrister. An example of a client information sheet is annexed. Whilst the information sheet carries the necessary information, it also carries helpful information for the client about the barrister and should not give rise to any negative impression. The client information sheet may be sent or handed out to the client; it may also be provided by the clerk or receptionist when the client arrives for a conference.

Compliance

29. Whilst these requirements came into force on 6 October 2010, since 2008 Section D1.1 of the Code of Conduct has required barristers or a member of staff when first instructed to notify clients of their Chambers Complaints Procedure. The principal difference was that the requirement in force since 2008 permitted compliance by requesting in writing the solicitor or intermediary to pass the information on to the client. These requirements since 2008 have not given rise to concerns on the part of the profession.

30. It is recognized that there will be circumstances in which, in individual cases, it is impractical to comply strictly with the requirements. What is important is that Chambers set up systems, and establish procedures, to effect compliance with these requirements consistent with this guidance. The precise solutions will differ according to different fields of practice. If this has been done responsibly, then the BSB will in their monitoring visits regard sympathetically particular and specific problems and difficulties which occur or are likely to occur in individual cases.

Cases where the procedure cannot be followed

31. Where the barrister has the contact details of the client, or when the barrister meets the client in the course of the matter, compliance should not in general present a problem.

32. However, there will be areas of practice, and particular cases, where it is not possible or practical for the barrister to satisfy the notification requirement in this way. For example, the barrister may not have the contact details of the client, cannot readily obtain them, and does not anticipate meeting the client in the course of being instructed or at least not for some time.

33. Some common sense is required in setting up procedures so as to fulfil the notification requirements. For example, where a barrister acts for government departments or public bodies it should be possible to agree a standing arrangement with treasury solicitors or other inhouse lawyers whereby details of the complaints system is provided to the professional client to be passed on to the client body. Most barristers will be able to think of examples within their own field of practice where procedures can be responsibly adopted so as to fulfil the notification requirement.

34. In some cases there will be no realistic alternative to compliance by providing the requisite information to the solicitor or other professional client with instructions to provide that information to the client on behalf of the barrister, even when the solicitor has not expressly agreed to do so. But this course should only be adopted when other better means of compliance are not practical.

C. Chambers complaints procedure: guidance

35. This guidance is provided to Chambers to assist them to develop a complaints procedure which is compliant with the mandatory requirements set out at Section D1.1 of the Code of Conduct. Chambers are not obliged to follow the guidance absolutely. If Chambers decide not to adopt the model procedure provided at Appendix 1 below, they should have regard to this guidance when devising their own complaints handling arrangements.

36. All barristers must be familiar with the requirements of Section D1.1 of the Code of Conduct.

37. Those barristers who are responsible for dealing with complaints should ensure that they and any staff who deal with complaints are adequately trained. The Bar Standards Board will audit and monitor Chambers complaints handling, including the sufficiency of training.

38. This annex sets out the contents of an effective procedure. Model complaints procedures are at Appendix 1 (multi member sets of Chambers) and Appendix 2 (sole practitioners). Chambers will need to insert names/positions etc into the sections in square brackets. Chambers must ensure that their website and brochure carries information about the Chambers' Complaints Procedure.

39. Chambers are not obliged to adopt the model complaints procedures provided below. The model procedures set out good practice arrangements for handling complaints but the BSB is aware that there are alternative methods that may be just as effective. Chambers have discretion to either devise their own procedure or to amend the model procedure to best fit their own administrative arrangements or the particular circumstances of a complaint. The only requirements are that Chambers adopts a complaints procedure that includes the mandatory requirements laid down in the complaints protocol set out at Section D1.1 of the Code of Conduct.

40. Possible alternatives to the arrangements in the model procedure have been provided where appropriate. These alternatives are not exhaustive but are used to highlight that other procedures may be more suitable for Chambers depending on their size, practice type or administrative set up.

Chambers complaints procedure: First Stage

41. Where a client is dissatisfied with some aspect of the service provided by a barrister or by Chambers he should be invited to telephone an individual nominated under the Chambers Complaints Procedure to deal with complaints. For example, the Chambers Director, Practice Manager or Head of Chambers. In order to ensure consistency of approach, this individual should be the first point of contact for all complaints. The client should also be told that if he prefers he may make the complaint in writing and the Chambers Complaint Procedure should be sent to him unless it has already been provided.

42. Where a complaint is made by telephone, a note of the complaint should be made. It should record:

• The name and address of the complainant;
• The date of the complaint;
• Against whom the complaint is made;
• The detail of the complaint; and
• What the complainant believes should be done about the complaint.

43. In many cases the complaint will be resolved over the telephone during the first call. When that occurs the individual nominated to deal with complaints should record the outcome on the note of complaint. The client should be asked whether he is content with the outcome and informed of the Legal Ombudsman's complaints procedure. If he is, that fact will be recorded. The complaints procedure should suggest that the client may wish to make his own note. If the client is not content he should be invited to put the complaint in writing so that it may be investigated formally. At that stage he should be sent a copy of the Chambers' Complaints Procedure unless it has already been provided: The client should also be informed of the Legal Ombudsman's complaints procedure.

Chambers complaint procedure: Second Stage

44. It is recommended that Chambers set up a complaints panel made up of experienced practitioners from different practice areas and a senior member of staff. A head of panel should be appointed. There should be a nominated deputy. All complaints (other than those resolved at stage one) should be put before the head of the panel or, in his absence, the deputy. The role of the panel is to appoint from its members an independent person to investigate a complaint and to ensure that all complaints are handled consistently and in accordance with the Chambers complaints procedure.

45. It may not be appropriate or possible for a small set of Chambers to convene a complaints panel. Chambers are encouraged to set up a complaints panel where possible or otherwise nominate an individual or individuals to investigate the complaint.

46. Sole practitioners may not feel able to investigate independently a complaint raised against them and should therefore offer mediation or arbitration if a complaint remains unresolved. A suggested approach to mediation/arbitration is set out in the model procedure for sole practitioners at Appendix 2 below.

47. A complaint received in writing should, where possible, be acknowledged within two days of receipt and, in any event, promptly. Within 14 days of that acknowledgment the head of the panel (where one has been set up) (or his deputy) should appoint a member of the panel to investigate the complaint. Where the complaint is against a member of staff the person appointed normally will be the senior staff member. Where the complaint is against the senior staff member the head of the panel should appoint another member of the panel to investigate. Where the complaint is against the head of the panel, the Head of Chambers should investigate or, in his discretion, appoint a member of the panel to investigate. Where the Head of Chambers is the head of the panel, the deputy head of the panel should be the appointed person. No barrister should investigate a complaint of which he is the subject. Where no panel has been established, Chambers should ensure that the individual or individuals nominated to investigate the complaint is impartial.

48. The appointed person/nominated individual should write to the client as soon as he is appointed. He should inform him that he is to investigate the complaint and that he will report back to the client within 14 days. If it becomes plain that a response cannot be sent within 14 days a realistic time frame should be set and the client informed accordingly.

49. The appointed person/nominated individual should investigate the complaint. He should speak to the barrister/member of staff complained against, and any other people he identifies as having something to contribute. He should review all relevant documents. If necessary he should revert to the client for further information and clarification.

50. The appointed person/nominated individual should prepare a report to the client (with a copy to the barrister/member of staff complained against). The report should set out all the matters referred to at paragraph 42 above, the nature and scope of the investigations carried out in respect of each complaint, his conclusions and the basis for his conclusions. The report should be drafted using clear and concise language. Where a complaint is found to be justified, the report should provide proposals for resolution (e.g. reduction in fees, apology, compensation).

51. The report should be sent to the client within 14 days of the appointed person's appointment (or such longer period as has been communicated to the client in advance - see paragraph 48). A copy of the report should be provided to the barrister/member of staff complained against.

Charging for complaints

52. Chambers should not charge clients for dealing with their complaint. To do so brings the Bar into disrepute and could amount to professional misconduct.

Confidentiality

53. All conversations and documents shall be confidential and disclosed only to the extent necessary. They may be disclosed only to the client, the person complained about, the Head of Chambers, the head of the complaints panel or relevant senior member of the panel, the nominated individual, the management committee (for carrying out the task at paragraph 50) and any other individual with whom enquiries need to be made for the purpose of the investigation.

Record Keeping

54. Where the procedure ends after the first stage the person responsible for recording the outcome on the note of complaint should ensure that the note of complaint is placed on the Chambers complaints file.

55. Where the procedure ends after the second stage the head of the panel/nominated individual should ensure that the following documents are placed on the Chambers complaints file:

• Note/letter of complaint; (see paragraph 41);

• Appointed person's/nominated individual's report; (see paragraph 50).

Review, Monitoring and Audit

56. The Chambers complaints file should be inspected regularly by the management committee. Papers should be anonymised where necessary. The person responsible for the administration of the system should report at least annually to such appropriate committee of Chambers on the number of complaints received and the subject area of the complaints. In such a report all the details should be anonymised, but should be reviewed for trends and possible training issues.

57. The Bar Standards Board will audit and monitor Chambers complaints handling, including, where appropriate, the sufficiency of training. All barristers must comply promptly with requests for information from the committees of the Bar Standards Board dealing with monitoring and auditing.

First issued: March 2008

Last Updated: January 2014

Appendix 1

The model procedures for Chambers and for Sole Practitioners are based on the suggested arrangements for handling complaints set out in the above guidance. Chambers or sole practitioners may decide to adopt the model procedure but are free to develop their own procedure or set of rules for dealing with complaints. Chambers' must ensure that any procedure they develop is compliant with the mandatory requirements set out at Section D1.1 of the Code of Conduct.

Model Chambers Complaints Procedure for multi member sets

1. Our aim is to give you a good service at all times. However if you have a complaint you are invited to let us know as soon as possible. It is not necessary to involve solicitors in order to make your complaint but you are free to do so should you wish.

2. Please note that the Legal Ombudsman, the independent complaints body for service complaints about lawyers, has time limits in which a complaint must be raised with them. The time limits are:

a) Six years from the date of the act/omission

b) Three years from the date that the complainant should reasonably have known there were grounds for complaint (if the act/omission took place before the 6 October 2010 or was more than six years ago)

c) Within six months of the complaint receiving a final response from their lawyer, if that response complies with the requirements in rule 4.4 of the Scheme Rules (which requires the response to include prominently an explanation that the Legal Ombudsman was available if the complainant remained dissatisfied and the provision of full contact details for the Ombudsman and a warning that the complaint must be referred to them within six months

3. The Ombudsman can extend the time limit in exceptional circumstances. Chambers must therefore have regard to that timeframe when deciding whether they are able to investigate your complaint. Chambers will not therefore usually deal with complaints that fall outside of the Legal Ombudsman's time limits.

4. The Ombudsman will also only deal with complaints from consumers. This means that only complaints from the barrister's client are within their jurisdiction. Non-clients who are not satisfied with the outcome of the Chambers' investigation should contact the Bar Standards Board rather than the Legal Ombudsman.

5. It should be noted that it may not always be possible to investigate a complaint brought by a non-client. This is because the ability of Chambers to satisfactorily investigate and resolve such matters is limited and complaints of this nature are often better suited to the disciplinary processes maintained by the Bar Standards Board. Therefore, Chambers will make an initial assessment of the complaint and if they feel that the issues raised cannot be satisfactorily resolved through the Chambers complaints process they will refer you to the Bar Standards Board.

Complaints Made by Telephone

6. You may wish to make a complaint in writing and, if so, please follow the procedure in paragraph 7 below. However, if you would rather speak on the telephone about your complaint then please telephone the individual nominated under the Chambers Complaints Procedure to deal with complaints - NAME or (if the complaint is about a member of staff) the [senior member of staff -NAME]. If the complaint is about the [senior member of staff] telephone [the Head of Chambers - NAME or other member of Chambers appointed by head]. The person you contact will make a note of the details of your complaint and what you would like to have done about it. He will discuss your concerns with you and aim to resolve them. If the matter is resolved he will record the outcome, check that you are satisfied with the outcome and record that you are satisfied. You may also wish to record the outcome of the telephone discussion in writing.

7. If your complaint is not resolved on the telephone you will be invited to write to us about it so it can be investigated formally.

Complaints made in Writing

8. Please give the following details:

• Your name and address;
• Which member(s) of Chambers you are complaining about;
• The detail of the complaint; and
• What you would like done about it.

9. Please address your letter to [name of preferred recipient and Chambers' address]. We will, where possible, acknowledge receipt of your complaint within two days and provide you with details of how your complaint will be dealt with.

10. Our Chambers has a panel headed by [name] and made up of experienced members of Chambers and a senior member of staff, which considers any written complaint. Within 14 days of your letter being received the head of the panel or his deputy in his absence will appoint a member of the panel to investigate it. If your complaint is against the head of the panel, the next most senior member of the panel will investigate it. In any case, the person appointed will be someone other than the person you are complaining about.

11. The person appointed to investigate will write to you as soon as possible to let you know he has been appointed and that he will reply to your complaint within 14 days. If he finds later that he is not going to be able to reply within 14 days he will set a new date for his reply and inform you. His reply will set out:

• The nature and scope of his investigation;
• His conclusion on each complaint and the basis for his conclusion; and
• If he finds that you are justified in your complaint, his proposals for resolving the complaint.

Confidentiality

12. All conversations and documents relating to the complaint will be treated as confidential and will be disclosed only to the extent that is necessary. Disclosure will be to the head of Chambers, members of our management committee and to anyone involved in the complaint and its investigation. Such people will include the barrister member or staff who you have complained about, the head or relevant senior member of the panel and the person who investigates the complaint. The Bar Standards Board is entitled to inspect the documents and seek information about the complaint when discharging its auditing and monitoring functions.

Our Policy

13. As part of our commitment to client care we make a written record of any complaint and retain all documents and correspondence generated by the complaint for a period of six years. Our management committee inspects an anonymised record regularly with a view to improving services.

Complaints to the Legal Ombudsman

14. If you are unhappy with the outcome of our investigation and you fall within their jurisdiction you may take up your complaint with the Legal Ombudsman, the independent complaints body for complaints about lawyers, at the conclusion of our consideration of your complaint. The Ombudsman is not able to consider your complaint until it has first been investigated by Chambers. Please note the timeframe for referral of complaints to the Ombudsman as set out at paragraph 2 above.

You can write to them at:

Legal Ombudsman
PO Box 6806,
Wolverhampton
WV1 9WJ

Telephone number: 0300 555 0333
Email: enquiries@legalombudsman.org.uk

15. If you are not the barrister's client and are unhappy with the outcome of our investigation then please contact the Bar Standards Board at:

Bar Standards Board
Professional Conduct Department
289-293 High Holborn
London
WC1V 7JZ

Telephone number: 0207 6111 444
Website : www.barstandardsboard.org.uk

Appendix 2

Model Complaints Procedure - Sole Practitioners

1. My aim is to give all my clients a good service at all times. However if you have a complaint please let me know as soon as possible, by telephone or in writing. I will treat your complaint as confidential although I may discuss it with other barristers or officials from the Bar Standards Board for their advice. I will not reveal your name to others unless I am setting up mediation or arbitration. I will deal with your complaint promptly.

2. Please note that the Legal Ombudsman, the independent complaints body for service complaints about lawyers, has time limits in which a complaint must be raised with them. The time limits are:

a) Six years from the date of the act/omission

b) Three years from the date that the complainant should reasonably have known there were grounds for complaint (if the act/omission took place before the 6 October 2010 or was more than six years ago)

c) Within six months of the complaint receiving a final response from their lawyer, if that response complies with the requirements in rule 4.4 of the Scheme Rules (which requires the response to include prominently an explanation that the Legal Ombudsman was available if the complainant remained dissatisfied and the provision of full contact details for the Ombudsman and a warning that the complaint must be referred to them within six months

3. The Ombudsman can extend the time limit in exceptional circumstances. Chambers must therefore have regard to that timeframe when deciding whether they are able to investigate your complaint. Chambers will not therefore usually deal with complaints that fall outside of the Legal Ombudsman's time limits.

4. The Ombudsman will also only deal with complaints from consumers. This means that only complaints from the barrister's client are within their jurisdiction. Non-clients who are not satisfied with the outcome of the investigation should contact the Bar Standards Board rather than the Legal Ombudsman.

5. It should be noted that it may not always be possible to investigate a complaint brought by a non-client. This is because my ability to satisfactorily investigate and resolve such matters is limited and complaints of this nature are often better suited to the disciplinary processes maintained by the Bar Standards Board. Therefore, I will make an initial assessment of the complaint and if I feel that the issues raised cannot be satisfactorily resolved through my complaints process I will refer you to the Bar Standards Board.

Complaints made by telephone

6. If you wish to make a complaint by telephone, I will make a note of the details of your complaint and what you would like done about it. I will endeavour to resolve matters with you on the telephone. If after discussion you are satisfied with the outcome I will make a note of the outcome and the fact that you are satisfied. If you are not satisfied you may wish to make a written complaint.

Complaints made in writing

7. If you wish to make a written complaint please give me the following details:-

• Your name, telephone number an address;
• The detail of your complaint; and
• What you would like done about it.

Procedure for dealing with your complaint

8. There are a number of ways in which your complaint may be dealt with:

(a) Discussion over the telephone;
(b) Dealt with by correspondence;
(c) Discussion at a meeting between us;
(d) The appointment of a mediator who will try to facilitate the resolution of your complaint;
(e) The appointment of an arbitrator whose decision we both agree shall be binding.

9. If we decide to appoint an arbitrator we both would need to agree how the arbitrator should approach his/her task and the limit of the compensation that can be awarded. The Bar Sole Practitioners Group (BSPG) or local Circuit will be approached and a barrister will be appointed to arbitrate. We will decide together whether it will be the BSPG or the local Circuit who should be approached. However neither of us may veto the person chosen. It is expected that the BSPG and the Circuit will chose someone who has considerable experience in the area that is the subject matter of the dispute.

10. Upon receipt of a written complaint I will

(a) Reply in writing, normally within 48 hours, to acknowledge the complaint and inform you how I shall be dealing with it.

(b) Reply within 14 days responding in full to your complaint. I will offer you the opportunity to meet with you if that is appropriate. If I find later that I am not going to be able to reply within 14 days I will set a new date for my reply and inform you. My reply will set out:

• The nature and scope of my investigation;

• My conclusion on each complaint and the basis for my conclusion; and

• If I find that you are justified in your complaint, my proposals for resolving the complaint.

11. If you indicate that you are not happy with my written response you may ask for mediation or arbitration or, if you fall within their jurisdiction, you may make a formal complaint to the Legal Ombudsman, the independent complaints handling body for complaints about lawyers. Please note the timeframe for referral of complaints to the Ombudsman as set out at paragraph 2 above.

They can be contacted at:

Legal Ombudsman
PO Box 6806,
Wolverhampton
WV1 9WJ

Telephone number: 0300 555 0333
Email: enquiries@legalombudsman.org.uk

12. If you are not my client and are unhappy with the outcome of our investigation then please contact the Bar Standards Board at:

Bar Standards Board
Professional Conduct Department
289-293 High Holborn
London
WC1V 7JZ

Telephone number: 0207 6111 444

Website: www.barstandardsboard.org.uk

13. I will maintain confidentiality at all times and discuss your complaint only to the extent that is necessary for its resolution and to comply with requests for information from the Bar Standards Board discharging its auditing and monitoring functions.

14. I will retain all correspondence and other documents generated in the course of your complaint for a period of six years and I will review complaints at least once a year to ensure that I maintain good standards of service. 

APPENDIX 3

Example client information leaflet

Barrister XXXXX

Client Information Leaflet

About XXXX

I am a barrister at xxxx Chambers in xxxx

Include a statement about yourself and your experience eg

I specialise in xxxxxx

How I will work for you

My work for you may involve giving advice, writing legal documents, or representing you in a court, tribunal or meeting.

As your barrister, I will work closely with your solicitor. But my duty is to you. I will do whatever I legally can to protect and advance your interests. However, my overriding duty is to the court so I cannot knowingly or recklessly mislead the court.

I will keep what you tell me confidential if that is what you want. But I cannot tell a court (or anyone else) anything that I know is not true.

I will do whatever I can to help you through the legal process. Please tell me or your solicitor about any concerns you have. And do ask all the questions you want to ask.

Feedback and complaints

I value all feedback. Please do let me know, at any time, what you think.

If anything is wrong, I would always want to know and to put it right. Please tell me, or your solicitor, straight away.

You can also contact the Legal Ombudsman (Tel: 0300 555 0333), enquiries@legalombudsman.org.uk

More information

You can find out more about me and my chambers on Chambers website at XXXX