Complaints Handling Policy
If you have a complaint of poor service of Bluewater Law Solicitors (firm) or our solicitor working for us, please note that the Solicitor Regulation Authority (SRA) doesn’t usually investigate concerns about delays or communication, disagreements about your bill, isolated mistakes by the solicitor working for our firm.
You need to first raise your concerns with us by contacting us first and if you aren’t happy with our response, the Legal Ombudsman is the organisation that is best placed to help you.
The process of our internal complaint procedure and how to complain to SRA and the Legal Ombudsman (LeO) are as follows: –
- Internal complaint procedure
- Complaint to the Solicitor Regulation Authority (SRA)
- Complain to the Legal Ombudsman (LeO)
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.
We strictly follow the following principles while we deal with your complaint: –
Information to clients:
Client’s right to complain (including about a bill), how complaints can be made, their right to complain to the Solicitor Regulation Authority (SRA) and Legal Ombudsmen (LeO), the time frame for doing so and full details of how to contact the SRA and LeO.
All complaints are handled by the Principal Solicitor. The details of the complaint will be entered into the complaints register.
- Throughout the process of the complaint, the 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)
- The complaint involves matters that need to be notified externally, eg to our professional indemnity insurers if the complaint involves negligence.
Acknowledge complaints in writing to the complainant within 5 working days, enclosing a copy of our client-facing complaints policy and our acknowledgment 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 the Principal Solicitor
- information on when we will next be in contact with the complainant
Meeting face to face:
The client will also be invited to attend a meeting to outline their concerns face-to-face. In the first meeting, we do a Preliminary assessment and the Principal Solicitor will consider each complaint objectively during the meeting and will Itemise the issues in order to understand the complaint fully. We also consider the complexity and seriousness of the complaint Identify any remedies sought by the complainant and consider the remedies available and/or appropriate.
Any action will depend on the conclusions drawn from the preliminary assessment which include but are not limited to investigating the complaint, obtaining feedback from relevant people, and providing a response to the complainant.
The level and extent of the investigations will be proportionate to the seriousness of the complaint. Unless there are exceptional circumstances, the Principal Solicitor will review the relevant matter file as a first step.
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.
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.
- 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
Review of Decision:
The client will be informed of their right to ask for a review if they are not happy with the outcome of our initial decision.
In this case, the matter will be reviewed by the Principal Solicitor. He will follow a similar process to that outlined 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.
The 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 and the SRA should they so wish.
We have eight weeks to resolve a complaint, after which the complainant may refer their complaint to the LeO for resolution.
As with all client matters we will treat complaints, and any information received during the course of dealing with complaints, with utmost confidentiality.
Our complaints handling procedure is sensitive to individual differences and needs of our clients.
If you are still not satisfied, and all attempts to address your concerns are unsuccessful then you can ask the legal ombudsman service OR Solicitor Regulation Authority to consider your complaint.
- Complain to the Legal Ombudsman (LeO)
- Complaint to the Solicitor Regulation Authority (SRA)
(A) Complain to the Legal Ombudsman (LeO)
Not all nature of complaints will be dealt with by the SRA. If you have any complaint for Poor service from a firm or solicitor, concerns about delays or communication from us, disagreements about your bill or isolated mistakes by our solicitor. If these are outcomes you are looking for and in the first point you followed the complaint procedure of our firm and if you aren’t happy with our response, the Legal Ombudsman is the organisation that is best placed to help you.
The Legal Ombudsman can look at your complaint, investigate it and recommend that the firm pay compensation to you, reduce your bill, give you an apology and take other steps to put things right.
The brief stages of the complaint to the Legal Ombudsman (LeO):
- Complaint to LeO
- Acknowledgement of your complaint
- The early resolution team will review your complaint.
- A complaint will be assigned for investigation.
- our investigator will talk to you in more detail about your complaint, and what they need to investigate it.
- The investigator will try to resolve your complaint based on their findings.
- The ombudsman may make a final decision.
For details on how to complain and the key stages, please follow the link: https://www.legalombudsman.org.uk/how-to-complain/
The complaint procedure is by the online form which will take 30 minutes to complete, however, if you have any difficulty, you can contact The Legal Ombudsman (LeO) who can be contacted as follows:
PO Box 6167
Tel: 0300 555 0333
The Legal Ombudsman is completely independent and free to use. They will look into what has happened and let you know what they think is the best way forward.
Timescale of Complaint to LeO:
You will need to contact LeO within 1 year of the issue you are complaining about or, if it was longer ago, within 1 year of you finding out about the issue. These time limits may be extended in certain circumstances. If you get a response from the service provider, you should bring your complaint to Le) within 6 months of our final response.
A complaint to the Legal Ombudsman must be made within six months of receiving a final response on the complaint to the Law firm and no more than one year from the date of the act or omission being complained about; or no more than one year from the date when you should reasonably have known that there was cause for complaint.
(B) COMPLAINT TO SOLICITOR REGULATION AUTHORITY
Anyone can report concerns about a solicitor or a firm. This includes members of the public, clients, employees, and employers, as well as other regulators who can complain to the SRA.
There is no time limit for reporting concerns to SRA, however, it is a good idea to report your concerns as soon as possible. This will increase the chances of getting evidence to support your concerns. If the events you report to SRA took place a long time ago, the SRA may decide that it’s not proportionate to investigate the matters now, particularly if the matter is borderline and SRA has not received other complaints in the meantime.
If you think that your complaint to our Law Firm was not dealt with fairly and SRA rules have been breached, you can complain to the Solicitor Regulation Authority and the SRA will investigate your complaint and will let you know their decision.
The SRA will acknowledge receipt of your report, saying when they will contact you next. It can take up to eight weeks to decide whether the SRA will investigate or not. The SRA will let you know if they need any longer and explain why. If the SRA identifies urgent problems, they will respond to you more quickly.
If the SRA decides to investigate the concerns you report to them, they will write to you to explain the procedure and next steps.
If the SRA decides not to investigate, they will write to you to explain how they reached their decision. The SRA won’t be able to answer queries about the facts, as they won’t have investigated.
The SRA procedure is to investigate serious or repeated cases of poor behaviour or conduct and usually they investigate but are not limited to: –
- Dishonesty or fraud,
- Misuse of client money,
- Sexual or violent misconduct,
- Serious criminal offences,
- Taking unfair advantage of you or others,
- Discriminating against you or others,
- Failing to act in the best interests of a client,
- Failing to take steps needed to safeguard against money laundering,
- Seriously reckless or incompetent behaviour or a pattern of behaviour that puts you (as a client), your money or your case at risk.
Please note that each case is different and depends on its own facts and circumstances. For more details please follow the link complaint policy and procedure of SRA: –
The SRA website has a short online form of complaint which you need to complete and return to them. If you have any difficulty filling in the form or have no access to the online access, please contact the SRA by phone call or by writing a letter to the following address: –
Solicitors Regulation Authority
199 Wharfside Street
Tel: 0370 606 2555