LSB bolsters requirements on how lawyers handle consumer complaints

The Legal Services Board (LSB) has issued Requirements, Guidance, and a statement of policy to regulators to improve the way in which first tier complaints are handled. First tier complaints are the initial complaints that consumers make to their legal provider about the service they have received. 

These measures aim to drive significant improvement in complaints handling by ensuring that, wherever possible, complaints are dealt with promptly and as close as possible to source. Consumers should feel empowered to know that their complaint will be taken seriously, and that their feedback will be used to improve services. Complaint procedures should be easy for users to find, and they should be able to make complaints in the way that suits them best. Clear information on how to make complaints should be provided when needed and, if a complaint is made, updates on progress should be given. 

Legal service users should feel confident that a complaint will be handled fairly and promptly, without any negative consequences for them. 

Produced following extensive research, consultation and stakeholder engagement, the Requirements & Guidance have addressed the following concerns:  

  • Research shows that nearly half of complaint cases escalated to the Legal Ombudsman were found to have been handled inadequately at first tier. 
  • 30% of complaints to the Legal Ombudsman are made prematurely – that is, before the first-tier process has been exhausted. This could be a combination of a lack of confidence in the process or fear that it is too complex. 
  • Despite dissatisfaction with legal services, 26% of respondents to the Tracker Survey refrained from taking any action, highlighting the need for enhanced protection and advocacy. 

The LSB’s statement of policy states that regulators must pursue the following outcomes: 

  • the best possible complaints resolution system for legal services users by using information and intelligence gathered from first-tier complaints and second-tier complaints;  
  • a culture of continuous improvement and learning from complaints and feedback to improve legal services. 

Together, the Requirements, Guidance and statement of policy aim to deliver a step-change improvement in first-tier complaint handling by ensuring that complaints are dealt with effectively, efficiently and fairly. Alan Kershaw, Chair of the LSB, said: 

 “Too many people experience challenges in having their complaints dealt with fairly and promptly. Often this is because it is not clear how to complain or they feel they come up against a wall of silence. The process should be clear, easy and as stress-free as possible. Addressing complaints promptly is not just about resolving issues; it’s good for business too. By tackling grievances early on, we prevent them from escalating into resource-intensive problems down the line. This proactive approach not only fosters better customer relationships but also enhances a competitive edge in the market and reduces the need for a regulator to become involved. 

 The statutory Requirements, Guidance and statement of policy will help make that step- change needed in the sector and set expectations and good practice for the regulators. 

 We hope that this helps to build public trust and confidence in legal services.”

Alongside the announcement, Alan Kershaw has written a blog on the value of effective complaint-handling for legal businesses as well as consumers

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