The following statement may be useful for firms who wish to have a policy on internal complaints procedures.
Statistics show that if complaints from clients are handled expeditiously within a firm and the result is to the satisfaction of the client, not only will he/she stay with the firm, but the person is likely to send the firm more business. On the other hand, clients who make a complaint to a firm, but find that their complaint is not properly dealt with, will be more likely to leave the firm. They may go on to make a complaint to the Law Society or the Solicitors’ Disciplinary Tribunal, who must then formally investigate the matter.
It is the policy of this firm, therefore, to deal quickly with complaints made to us, to ensure, where possible, that the result is to the satisfaction of the client.
Even if the complaint is not justified, if the result is the loss of a good client, this is always significant for our firm.
What constitutes a complaint?
A client may express dissatisfaction to the solicitor or fee-earner handling their case or transaction. However, the solicitor or fee-earner may succeed in resolving the matter.
For the purpose of this procedure, our firm considers any expression of dissatisfaction that cannot be resolved by the solicitor or fee-earner handling their case or transaction to be a complaint. This applies no matter how the complaint is expressed, and whether it is verbal or in writing.
Terms and conditions of business
Our firm’s Terms and Conditions of Business document provides for internal complaints, as follows:
- The client should bring any issue of concern to the attention of the solicitor or fee-earner handling their case or transaction, and the solicitor or fee earner will make every effort to resolve the issue.
- In the event that the issue is not resolved, the client can avail of this internal complaints procedure.
- To avail of the procedure, the complaint should be made in writing, addressed to [insert name of principal of the firm, or the partner in charge of customer relations in the firm]. If the complaint concerns [insert name of principal of the firm, or the partner in charge of customer relations in the firm], the complaint should be addressed to [insert name of office manager].
- When the written complaint is received, it will be brought to the attention of [insert name of principal of the firm, or the partner in charge of customer relations in the firm, or office manager].
- The complaint will then be recorded in the firm’s Complaints Register.
- The client will be sent a written acknowledgement of the complaint within seven days.
- The relevant file will be reviewed by [insert name of principal of the firm, or the partner in charge of customer relations in the firm, or office manager] and he/she will discuss the matter with the solicitor or fee-earner dealing with the case or transaction.
- The client will be sent a full written response within 14 days of the receipt of the written complaint.
Focus on meeting the client’s concerns
In reviewing the complaint, the issue that will be addressed will not be whether the complaint should be upheld or rejected. Rather, the focus will be on meeting the client’s concerns. The aim will be to seek to ensure that the client is satisfied that their concerns have been addressed and all necessary actions taken.
With this approach, it is more likely that the firm’s relationship with the client will continue, to the benefit of both the firm and the client.
Even though a solicitor or fee-earner may not believe that a complaint is valid, it is important for all staff to understand that some elements of the complaint will invite an appropriate response from the firm, so that the client is reassured that efforts are being made to meet their concerns.
Possible remedies for the client
- An apology from the firm in respect of any errors, omissions or matters that should not have occurred,
- A commitment from the firm that there will be no recurrence of the error, omission or other matter,
- A reduction in the bill,
- An abatement of the bill in total,
- Notification to the client of his/her right to make a formal complaint to the Law Society,
- Assurance to the client that any unsatisfactory procedures that have been highlighted by the complaint will be corrected.
Implementation of procedure
- It is important that every member of staff is aware of the procedure and implements it whenever necessary. Every member of the firm has a vested interest in this matter.
- [Insert name of principal of the firm, or the partner in charge of customer relations in the firm] will be responsible for ensuring the implementation of the procedure throughout the firm.
This internal complaints procedure will be reviewed in January of every year.