- This Complaints Procedure is addressed to lay clients, solicitors and any other persons (including litigants in person) having professional dealings with One Brick Court. Our aim is to give you a good service at all times. If however you have a complaint which you have not been able to resolve informally with the barrister or member of staff concerned, you are invited to let us know as soon as possible. Complaints may be made to us directly and need not be made through a solicitor. A copy of this Complaints Procedure is available on request to any lay client, solicitor or other person having or contemplating professional dealings with One Brick Court and will also be provided to every complainant in accordance with paragraph 11 below.
- 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. Ordinarily the time limits are as follows:
- The act/omission must have occurred after 5 October 2010 or the complainant must first reasonably have known there was cause for complaint after 5 October 2010; and
- The complaint must be referred to the Legal Ombudsman:
- no later than 6 years from the act/omission or 3 years from when the complainant should reasonably have known there was cause for complaint; and
- within six months of the complainant receiving a final response from their lawyer, provided that response complied with rule 4.4 of the Scheme Rules (which require the response to include prominently: an explanation that the Legal Ombudsman was available if the complainant remained dissatisfied; full contact details for the Legal Ombudsman; and a warning that the complaint must be referred to the Legal Ombudsman within six months of the response).
- 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.
- The Ombudsman will only deal with complaints from complainants failing within the ambit of its scheme (see www.legalombudsman.org.uk for the scheme). This includes individuals and some small businesses and other bodies who were a client of a barrister. Those falling outside the ambit of the scheme and who are not satisfied with the outcome of the Chambers’ investigation should contact the Bar Standards Board rather than the Legal Ombudsman.
- 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
- You are requested if possible to make your complaint in writing. The procedure for written complaints is explained in paragraphs 8 – 11 below. If however you would first like to explore whether the complaint can be resolved by telephone, please telephone the Head of Chambers (Lord Garnier QC) or (if the complaint is about a member of staff) the Senior Clerk (David Mace). If the complaint is about the Senior Clerk, please telephone the Head of Chambers. The person you contact will make a note of the details of your complaint and what you would like done about it. S/he may also ask you to put your complaint in writing, in which case it will then be investigated under the procedure explained in paragraphs 7-10 below. Otherwise, once the nature and terms of the complaint have been established, s/he will as soon as reasonably practicable inform the barrister or member of staff about whom you have complained of your complaint and will invite his/her comments upon it. S/he will then discuss your concerns with you and aim to resolve them. If the matter is resolved s/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.
- If your complaint is not resolved on the telephone you will be invited to write to us about it within 21 days so it can be investigated formally.
Complaints made in writing
- Please give the following details: your name and address, which member(s) of chambers or staff you are complaining about; the detail of the complaint; and what you would like done about it. Please address your letter to the Head of Chambers or the Senior Clerk, marked CONFIDENTIAL.
- Our chambers has a panel, composed of the Head of Chambers and the Senior Clerk, which considers any written complaint. Within 21 days of your letter being received the panel will investigate it. (If your complaint is against the Head of Chambers it will be investigated by the next most senior member of Chambers available. In any case, the person dealing with the complaint will be someone other than the person you are complaining about and will have no connection with your case).
- The barrister or other member of staff about whom you have complained will immediately be informed of your complaint and his/her comments will be invited upon it.
- The person dealing with the complaint will write to you as soon as possible to let you know that s/he has been appointed, what his/her role in Chambers is and that s/he will reply to your complaint within 21 days. A copy of this procedure will be enclosed with the letter. If s/he finds later that s/he is not going to be able to reply within 21 days s/he will set a new date for her/his reply and inform you.Her/his reply will set out:
The nature and scope of her/his investigation;
Her/his conclusion on each complaint and the basis for her/his conclusion;
and If s/he finds that you are justified in your complaint, her/his proposals for resolving the complaint.
- All conversations and documents relating to the complaint will be treated as confidential and will be disclosed only to the extent that is necessary for investigating and resolving the complaint; for any internal Chambers review carried out the for purpose of improving practice; or for complying with requests from the Bar Standards Board in the exercise of its monitoring or auditing functions. Disclosure for the purpose of investigating and resolving the complaint will be to the Head of Chambers, the Senior Clerk and to anyone necessarily involved in the complaint and its investigation (which will include the barrister or member of staff about whom you have complained 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.
- As part of our commitment to client care, we will make a written record of each complaint, all steps taken in response to it and the outcome of the complaint, together with a copy of all correspondence (including electronic e-mail) and all other documents generated in response to the complaint. Such records and copies will be kept for a period of six years. A report is made annually by the panel to our management committee on the number of complaints received, the subject areas of complaints and the outcomes. This information is then reviewed by the management committee for trends and possible training issues.
Alternative Dispute Resolution
- If Chambers is unable to resolve your complaint, Alternative Dispute Resolution is a possibility (if both parties agree). The following organisations are potential providers of ADR, Ombudsman Services (www.ombudsman-services.org) and ProMediate (www.promediate.co.uk).
Complaints to the Legal Ombudsman
- If you are unhappy with the outcome of our investigation 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. The Ombudsman’s service is free for consumers to use. Please note the timeframe for referral of complaints to the Ombudsman as set out at paragraph 2 above. You can write to them at:
PO Box 6806
Telephone number: 0300 555 0333
- 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