Complaints Handling Policy
1. Client facing policy
At Bluewater Law Solicitors Limited we are committed to providing a high-quality legal service to all our clients. When something goes wrong, we need you to tell us about it. This will help us to improve our standards.
If you have a complaint, please send a letter or email to us detailing your concerns.
What will happen next?
The Principal Solicitor will deal with your complaint in the first instance. The Principal Solicitor will acknowledge receipt of your complaint within 5 working days of receiving it. He will enclose a copy of this procedure and will ask you to confirm or explain the details of your complaint and to provide any additional information that you may feel is relevant.
Principal Solicitor or authorise person from the Firm will then investigate your complaint. They will review your matter file and speak to any other person who acted in this matter for you. If you prefer you can also arrange a meeting with Principal Solicitor to discuss the complaint face to face. Within 10 working days of receiving the full information from you, the authorise person or Principal Solicitor will send you a detailed written reply to your complaint, including his suggestions for resolving the matter.
At this stage, if you are still not satisfied, you should write to us again. Principal Solicitor will then review the decision, taking into account any additional information or comments from yourselves and then respond again with his further decision, within 10 working days.
If we have to change any of the timescales above, we will let you know and explain why.
If you are still not satisfied, and all attempts to address your concerns are unsuccessful then you can ask the legal ombudsman service to consider your complaint.
The Legal Ombudsman (LeO) who can be contacted as follows: PO Box 6806, Wolverhampton WV1 9WJ, Tel: 0300 555033, Web: www.legalombudsman.org.uk. There are time limits for submission of a complaint to them. They will accept a complaint made within 6 years of the act or omission giving rise to the complaint, or within 3 years of the client being reasonably aware of the complaint, this time limit being applicable after 6 October 2010. In addition the client must raise the complaint within 6 months of the final response under the internal complaint procedure of the firm.
Signed for and on behalf of
2. Internal management of Complaints
2.1.1. We are committed to providing a high-quality legal service and to dealing with all our clients fairly. However sometimes we may not get it right so if something has gone wrong, including in relation to the bill, we ask that clients tell us.
2.1.2. The following describes how we handle complaints and ensure we meet our regulatory obligations.
2.1.3. Fundamentally, it is vital that we handle complaints promptly, fairly, openly and effectively.
2.2. Information to clients
2.2.1. We must inform clients in writing at the outset of a matter of:
- their right to complain (including about a bill)
- how complaints can be made
- their right to complain to the Legal Ombudsmen (LeO), the time frame for doing so and full details of how to contact the LeO
- the circumstances in which they may be liable to pay interest on an unpaid bill
This is covered within the client letter and the terms of business.
2.3. Recording complaints
2.3.1. All complaints are handled by Principal Solicitor. The details of the complaint will be entered into the complaints register.
2.3.2. Throughout the process of the complaint Principal Solicitor will also document:
- any investigative steps taken
- minutes of any meetings internally and/or with the complainant
- references to any documents relied on for resolving the complaint (eg letters, attendance notes, etc)
2.3.3. Principal Solicitor will consider whether a complaint involves matters that need to be notified externally, eg to our professional indemnity insurers if the complaint involves negligence.
2.4. Acknowledging complaints
2.4.1. Principal Solicitor will acknowledge complaints in writing to the complainant within 5 working days, enclosing a copy of our Client-facing complaints policy (Item 1 above).
2.4.2. Our acknowledgement letter will contain:
- a statement of our understanding of the complaint
- if appropriate, a request for further information that we need in order to consider the complaint, and a time frame for providing that information
- contact details for Janine
- information on when we will next be in contact with the complainant
2.4.3. The client will also be invited attend a meeting should the so wish where they will be able to outline their concerns face to face.
2.5. Preliminary assessment
2.5.1. Principal Solicitor will consider each complaint objectively.
2.5.2. This stage involves three steps:
- Itemising the issues in order to understand the complaint fully.
- Considering the complexity and seriousness of the complaint.
- Identifying any remedies sought by the complainant and considering the remedies available and/or appropriate.
2.6. Taking action
2.6.1. Any action will depend on the conclusions drawn from the preliminary assessment.
2.6.2. Generally Principal Solicitor or authorise person from the Firm will:
- investigate the complaint
- obtain feedback from relevant people
- provide a response to the complainant
2.6.3. The level and extent of the investigations will be proportionate to the seriousness of the complaint. Unless there are exceptional circumstances, Principal Solicitor will review the relevant matter file as a first step.
2.6.4. Both clients and others involved in the complaint will be given the opportunity to provide their account of the situation and respond to points raised.
2.6.5. Principal Solicitor will respond to the complainant promptly with any decision or proposed action. We will aim to do this within 10 working days of receiving the full details of the complaint from the client. If there is a delay, she will write to the complainant to explain the reasons.
2.6.6. Principal Solicitor’s response will:
- re-state the details of the complaint
- outline the investigations undertaken
- state our findings resulting from the investigations
- offer a remedy or explain why we do not think it is appropriate to do so
- explain how to accept the proposed remedy
- inform the client of their right to complain to the LeO if they remain unsatisfied, the time frame for doing so and full details of how to contact the LeO
2.6.7. The complainant’s decision will be recorded.
2.7. Request for a review
2.7.1. The client will be informed of their right to ask for a review if they are not happy with the outcome of our initial review.
2.7.2. In this case the matter reviewed by Principal Solicitor. He will follow a similar process to that outlined in 2.6 above. He will also take into account any additional information that may be provided by the client or by those dealing with the matter originally.
2.7.3. Principal Solicitor will respond to the client with the outcomes of his review within 10 working days of the review request. The client will again be reminded of their right to refer the matter to the LeO should they so wish.
2.8.1. We have eight weeks to resolve a complaint, after which the complainant may refer their complaint to the LeO for resolution.
2.9.1. As with all clients matters we will treat complaints, and any information received during the course of dealing with complaints, with utmost confidentiality.
2.10. Vulnerable clients
2.10.1. Our complaints handling procedure is sensitive to individual differences and needs of our clients.