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Promoting best practice in client care
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Issue 1: Winter 2015

A brief introduction from Neil

I’d like to welcome you personally to the first edition of our new newsletter for client relations managers, which we hope will also be of interest to the wider legal sector.

By sharing information we learned from having handled over 8,000 complaints we want to help busy practitioners avoid the common issues that lead to complaints, and deal with those that do arise quickly and effectively at firm level before we ever have to become involved.  We know from research that great complaints handling increases consumer confidence in law firms and the sector, and effective and fair resolutions by firms helps reduce regulatory costs.  We’d welcome your suggestions on what other articles we might provide to help you carry out your role.
 
This quarter we share the findings of 12 cases which went to our Determination Committees, as well as information on our Annual Report for the year past and how you can contribute to a consultation next year on our new strategy. 
 
It has been an exciting time to arrive as the new Chief Executive of the organisation.  I hope you find this newsletter useful and we look forward to working with CRMs on developing this into a useful tool which helps you and helps build great service for clients. 

Learning from decisions

We’ve launched this newsletter to coincide with the first ever publication of SLCC Determinations – you can see all the decisions of our Determination Committees for the months of July to September here.

By publishing our decision, we hope you can learn from our experience of dealing with complaints – both in terms of how to prevent these sorts of complaints happening to you, but also how to adopt best practice when a complaint occurs.

Of the six complaints which were formally upheld by Determination Committees within the quarter July to September, two (15/03 & 15/06) included issues relating to delay. This is an area which featured highly in our five years trend analysis of complaint issues in 2013 and which continues to be a recurring problem.

In an ideal world, delays would always be deftly avoided and clients would always be kept updated and informed about the steady progress of their cases. However, few of us live in such a Utopia and very often matters can be prolonged and protracted through issues which are outwith our control.

In such situations, it’s very tempting to cross your fingers, hope that time will magically catch up with itself and that the client will never know. The reality check is that it probably won’t self-resolve and the client, on finding out, will be doubly annoyed – annoyed that something has not progressed and annoyed that you didn’t tell them!

Managing your clients’ expectations is absolutely critical to good client care – and therefore makes sound business sense. So if you do find that matters are not progressing at the speed your client is expecting, and if there are delays either within or outside your control, it is best practice to let your client know at the earliest opportunity.
Our guidance for solicitors on best practice in preventing complaints is in the links box to the right.

By the way…

Case 15/02 is unusual as it’s an example of an inadequate professional service (IPS) complaint being upheld against an individual solicitor.

Most service complaints are made against firms, rather than individuals, with the firm being responsible to pay compensation and the complaints levy. It is possible, however – as here – for a Determination Committee to find a particular solicitor personally responsible for the issue at hand and uphold the complaint against him/her.

The solicitor in this case was ordered personally to pay compensation to the complainer and also personally to pay the SLCC’s complaints levy.
 

See all decisions here

Our Annual Report

This month also saw us publish our annual report.   A ten minute read might assist your own decision making around complaints.  We worked with over 1,000 complaints in the year, and delivered over £400,000 in redress to consumers
  • Do you evaluate the possible costs of a complaint progressing to the SLCC when handling a complaint at firm level? 
76% of complaints are successfully resolved at mediation, without a firm having to pay the additional complaints levy and with higher satisfaction for both parties
  • might you now consider the mediation option when offered (some firms still refuse)? 
Did you know that almost 350 cases were ruled ineligible (premature, or time barred, or “frivolous, vexatious or totally without merit”) – and this year we even saw a Court of Appeal decision supporting our position that a complaint may be deemed ‘frivolous’, even when relating to a very serious issue, where the solicitor has promptly resolved matters.

Looking ahead

In January we will be consulting on a new four-year strategy for the organisation, focussed on how we can increase the value and impact our work. We’ll be looking at earlier and faster resolution, raising awareness of our role, and driving improvement based on our learning from complaints.  We’d welcome your thoughts on our priorities and focus, and look forward to hearing from you once the consultation is out.
News in Brief:
SLCC launches guides for consumers on wills and executries
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LCC confirms ADR entity application is on hold
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LCC is looking for new Board Members
Complaint Guides:
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Copyright © 2015 Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, All rights reserved.

https://www.scottishlegalcomplaints.org.uk/

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