HomeLegal noticesComplaints procedure

Our policy

We are committed to providing a high standard of service, consistent with the highest professional standards and in accordance with the Solicitors Regulation Authority Code of Conduct. We aim at all times to deal with everyone in a way that is fair, transparent, and proportionate and to provide excellent value for money. We recognise that we may not always provide the level of service that we would like and welcome the opportunity to consider and respond to any concerns that may
arise.

We take all complaints seriously and will learn from our mistakes to improve our performance.

A complaint means an oral or written expression of dissatisfaction which alleges that the complainant has suffered (or may suffer) financial loss, distress, inconvenience or other detriment. A ‘complainant’ refers to anyone making a complaint about the service provided by FWJ, for example, a client, another solicitor or other third party.

Aims and objectives

We will treat complainants with courtesy and respect at all times.

Our policy has three main aims and objectives:

  • to provide a user-friendly way for people to complain about any unsatisfactory aspect of the service we have provided;
  • to provide us with a procedure that helps us to respond quickly and efficiently to complaints that we receive;
  • to help us monitor our complaints so that we can understand where we may be going wrong and improve the way we work.

All complaints will be handled in confidence.

Our priority is to achieve a satisfactory outcome for you and at every stage of the procedure we will consider whether there is a practical and simple way to resolve the problem by agreement with you.

Making a complaint

We hope that, before making a complaint, you will first raise any concerns or questions that you may have with the person dealing with your case and that person or their supervisor will make every effort to respond immediately, before these matters develop into a formal complaint.

Complaints may be made in the following formats:

  • In writing, including by email. Complaints in writing should be addressed to our office marked for the attention of the Complaints Partner:
  • By telephone. Complaints may be made by telephone on 020 7841 0390

There is a three-stage process for dealing with complaints about the service provided by FWJ:

Stage 1: a response is provided by the Supervising Partner of the person who has been dealing with the matter. We would expect the majority of complaints to be dealt with at this stage;

Stage 2: a response is provided by the Complaints Partner, where there has been a serious breakdown of trust and confidence between the complainant and the solicitor involved; and

Stage 3: where the complainant is an individual or a “micro enterprise”, charity, club or trust falling within the Legal Ombudsman’s Scheme Rules (see below for details) a complainant may refer the complaint to the Legal Ombudsman, PO Box 6806, Wolverhampton WV1 9WJ, telephone number 0300 555 0333 or enquiries@legalombudsman.org.uk who can provide independent oversight of the way that we are carrying out our complaints handling function and provide a final independent response for those complaints that we cannot resolve internally. The Legal Ombudsman complaints form can be downloaded from https://www.legalombudsman.org.uk/make-a-complaint/.

Complaints may be made about any aspect of the service we have provided, for example:

  • mistakes or lack of care;
  • unreasonable delay;
  • unprofessional behaviour;
  • our bill.

Principles of good complaint handling

We have adopted the following six principles which we will apply in our complaint handling procedure:

  1. Getting it right – having a clear complaints procedure, and ensuring your complaint is handled by staff with appropriate skills and experience in accordance with this procedure and professional guidelines.
  2. Being client focused – having a simple and accessible procedure and dealing with people promptly and sensitively.
  3. Being open and accountable – by providing honest, evidence-based explanations and reasons for decisions.
  4. Acting fairly and proportionately – ensuring that complaints are dealt with impartially and courteously.
  5. Putting things rights – providing appropriate remedies, acknowledging mistakes and apologising where appropriate.
  6. Seeking continuous improvement – recording and monitoring our complaints and learning from the outcomes.

Complaints about a bill

You may make a complaint using this procedure if you are not happy with any charges on any bill we prepare in connection with our services to you. Where you are eligible, you may also make a complaint to the Legal Ombudsman (as described in Stage 3).

You also have the right under Part III of the Solicitors Act 1974 to apply to the court for an assessment of the bill in issue. Where any bill is submitted for assessment, it is not possible to ask the Legal Ombudsman to also review the bill.

If all or any part of a bill issued by FWJ remains unpaid after 14 days, we may be entitled to charge interest on the outstanding amount of the bill.

Timetable for response

We will seek to respond to all complaints promptly and in accordance with the time frames set out in this procedure. We aim to resolve any complaint to your satisfaction within 8 weeks of the complaint first being made.

We will acknowledge all complaints within five working days of receipt and, at the same time, will advise you whether we will be providing a response from the solicitor against whom the complaint arose or from the Complaints Partner.

Handling your complaint

We will acknowledge the complaint and advise the complainant how the complaint will be dealt with and by whom. We aim to resolve most complaints on our first attempt and in any event within 8 weeks of being notified of a complaint (see Stages 1 and 2 below).

After investigation you will be given written confirmation, with reasons, of all decisions made under this policy.

Stage 1: Our approach in dealing with complaints at Stage 1 will be fair, proportionate and flexible, appropriate to the nature of the complaint. Some complaints may be best dealt with by a phone call from the person who has been dealing with the matter or their supervising solicitor. Other complaints will involve a detailed review of the file before a response can be provided.

We will acknowledge receipt of the complaint within five working days and aim to provide a full response within 10 working days (two weeks) from the date of the acknowledgment confirming the outcome of the complaint, advising you that you have the opportunity for your complaint to be reviewed by the Complaints Partner (at Stage 2) if not satisfied with the outcome.

If you are dissatisfied with the outcome, you will have 10 working days (2 weeks) from the date the outcome is sent to you to request that your complaint is progressed to Stage 2.

Stage 2: The Complaints Partner will review complaints that we have not been able to resolve at Stage 1 and will investigate the complaints which we have decided are not suitable for a Stage 1 response.

If a complaint is referred for a response from the Complaints Partner, we will acknowledge receipt of the complaint within five working days and aim to provide a full response within 10 working days (two weeks) from the date of the acknowledgment. We will write to you to confirm the outcome, advising you that you may be eligible to submit your complaint to the Legal Ombudsman to be considered at Stage 3 if you are not satisfied with the outcome.

If we are not able to respond within these timescales, we will advise you why and let you know when we will be in a position to respond fully.

Under the Legal Ombudsman’s rules we normally have 8 weeks in which to resolve your complaint to your satisfaction. If after 8 weeks from making your complaint, whether or not it has not been fully dealt with, or earlier either if you have received our final response but you are dissatisfied with the outcome of Stage 2 or where certain other circumstances apply (see the Legal Ombudsman’s website https://www.legalombudsman.org.uk/information-centre/consumer-resources/), you may be eligible to submit your complaint to the Legal Ombudsman, as detailed in Stage 3 below.

Stage 3: We expect that only a small minority of complaints will be referred for a full independent review. These are the complaints that we have not been able to resolve internally and which the Legal Ombudsman decides are appropriate for review. The Legal Ombudsman will only accept complaints from individuals, micro enterprises (being enterprises which employ fewer than 10 persons and whose annual turnover and/or annual balance sheet total does not exceed EUR 2 million), charities or clubs with annual incomes of less than £1million or trustees of trusts with assets of less than £1million.

A complaint may be made to the Legal Ombudsman by telephone or by submitting a completed complaints form by post to email to the addresses set out above.

If you are not satisfied with our final response then you usually have 6 months to contact the Legal Ombudsman. This 6 month period runs from the earlier of the expiry of our 8 week period to resolve your complaint or the date of our final response to you.

The Legal Ombudsman can accept complaints where the act or omission alleged occurred in the then preceding 6 years or, if it occurred before then, in the 3 years from the date when the complainant should reasonably have known there were grounds for complaint. Further details are available on the Legal Ombudsman’s website.

The Legal Ombudsman has a detailed timetable for dealing with complaints accepted by it and overall aims to deal with all complaints it accepts within 90 days of acceptance.

Remedies

A complaint that has been upheld or partially upheld at stage 1 or stage 2 may attract one or more
of the following remedies:

  • a full acknowledgement and explanation of any poor service;
  • an apology;
  • appropriate action to rectify the situation for the complainant;
  • appropriate recommendations for action to improve our practices or procedures.

Contact us in confidence