Complaints Procedure


The Bar Standards Board (“BSB”) recommends that Chambers has a complaints procedure in place and a Complaints Panel made up of experienced practitioners from different practice areas and a senior member of staff. All complaints are handled by the Complaints Panel and in line with this procedure.

Two Stage Procedure

The complaints procedure has two stages as follows:

  1. Stage one: telephone call with CEO

The CEO is the first point of contact and will handle all telephone complaints unless the complaint is about the CEO in which case the complainant will be directed to the Head of Chambers.

If you feel your complaint is not resolved, you will be invited to submit a written complaint and at this stage will be provided with a copy of the 4 New Square Complaints Procedure (this document) and informed of your right to make a complaint to the Legal Ombudsman.

  1. Stage two: written complaint

Our aim is to give our clients a good service at all times. However if you have a complaint, you are invited to let us know as soon as possible. It is not necessary to involve solicitors in order to make your complaint but you are free to do so should you wish.

The Complaints Panel

The Panel will comprise the Head of Chambers, the CEO and all silks. The purpose of the panel is to ensure that all complaints are handled fairly and consistently by senior members who have been appropriately trained.

A member of the panel will be nominated to investigate your complaint.

Timing of the complaint

Chambers will not ordinarily deal with complaints outside of the Legal Ombudsman timeframes which are as follows:

  1. The act or omission, or when the complainant should reasonably have known there was cause for complaint, must have been after 5 October 2010; and
  2. The complainant must refer the complaint to Legal Ombudsman no later than six years from the act/omission, or three years from when the complainant should reasonably have known; and
  3. The complainant must also refer the complaint to the Legal Ombudsman within six months of the complainant receiving a final response from Chambers. The acknowledgment letter sent by Head of Chambers informs the complainant of this and you should also include this information in your investigation report.

The Legal Ombudsman can extend timing in exceptional circumstances.

You are entitled to bring your complaint to the Legal Ombudsman if you have not received an outcome from Chambers within eight weeks of your written complaint.

Authority and Conflicts

The 4 New Square Complaints Procedure follows that of the Legal Ombudsman (as recommended by the Bar Standards Board) and the Legal Ombudsman normally only deal with complaints made by clients. Therefore, in most cases Chambers will only deal with complaints brought by clients but this will be considered on a case-by-case basis. It may be appropriate for Chambers to investigate a non-client complaint if it is a simple and straight forward such as a complaint regarding discourtesy.

If you are making the complaint and are not the client, instructions will need to be sought from the client at the outset. We will also consider whether there any conflicts that prevent Chambers investigating the matter and will inform you if this is the case.

Scope of the 4 New Square’s Complaints Procedure

At the outset and as soon as possible, the appointed investigator will need to consider whether the complaint falls within the scope of the 4 New Square Complaints Procedure. It may be necessary to obtain further information or clarification from you to make this determination, or the answer may be clear from the complaint as made. If it is necessary to obtain further information, this request will be made in the first letter (see below) and when a response is received, we will ensure it is within scope of the 4 New Square Complaints Procedure.

The scope of the 4 New Square Complaints Procedure follows that of the Legal Ombudsman in that Chambers will only investigate complaints that relate to service. Chambers will not investigate misconduct or negligence allegations. Notwithstanding, where a negligence or misconduct complaint include allegations of poor service, the poor service element will be investigated by Chambers.

Service matters that are in scope (and this follows the Legal Ombudsman’ scope) are:

  1. Costs information was deficient
  2. Costs were excessive
  3. Potential data protection breach or breach of confidentiality
  4. Delay or failure to progress
  5. Discrimination
  6. Failure to advise
  7. Failure to follow instructions
  8. Failure to keep complainant informed of progress
  9. Failure to keep papers safe
  10. Failure to investigate complaint internally (which is why we have this process in place)

Investigator’s first letter

Once appointed, the investigator will write to you as soon as possible.

The first letter will:

  1. Inform the you that they are appointed as investigator.
  2. If not already known, confirm your preferred method of communication.
  3. Request confirmation from you that their understanding of your complaint is accurate.
  4. Confirm the outcome you are seeking.
  5. If allegations of professional negligence or misconduct have been raised or if the complaint is outside of Chambers’ scope for other reasons, you will be informed that the 4 New Square Complaints Procedure is not appropriate and will be provided an explanation. In such circumstances, you will be referred to the Legal Ombudsman and/or Bar Standards Board who may investigate the matter (non-clients will be referred to the Bar Standards Board as the Legal Ombudsman only deals with client complaints).
  6. Inform you will be provided with a written report within 28 days.
  7. If further information/clarification is requested within this initial letter, the investigator may state that they will provide you with a written report within 28 days of receiving a response from you.
  8. If more than 28 days is required to complete the investigation and send the report or that subsequently becomes apparent, you will be informed and provided with a realistic timeframe.

The individual who is the subject of the complaint

At the outset, the investigator will inform the individual who is the subject of the complaint:

  1. that the complaint has been made which they are investigating;
  2. details of the complaint made; and
  3. details of the investigation process.

A response will be sought from the individual who is the subject of the complaint.

Response received

If a further information or clarification is requested from you, you will receive an acknowledgment letter confirming receipt of that response as soon as possible following receipt. The investigator will confirm within this letter when they expect to send their report to you.

The Investigation

Unless additional time is required or the investigator has required your response in order to understand/clarify the complaint, the investigator will have 28 days from the date of their initial letter to you to conduct the investigation and send the final report to you.

The investigator will adopt a similar approach to that applied by the Legal Ombudsman when determining whether a complaint is made out, namely, in the opinion of the investigator, what is fair and reasonable in all the circumstances of the case.

In determining what is fair and reasonable, a similar approach to that of the Legal Ombudsman will be taken which is (bearing in mind that the Legal Ombudsman is not bound by this):

  1. what decision a court might make;
  2. the relevant Approved Regulator’s (BSB) rules of conduct at the time of the act/omission; and
  3. what the Ombudsman considers to have been good practice at the time of the act/omission.

Investigation report

The investigation report will set out:

  1. a summary of the complaint made and the outcome you are seeking;
  2. the nature and scope of the investigation;
  3. the conclusion on each complaint and the basis for that conclusion; and
  4. if the investigator finds that the complaint is justified, proposals for resolving the complaint.

The final report will also be provided to the individual who is the subject of the complaint, the Head of Chambers and CEO.

You will be informed that if you remain dissatisfied, you may complain to the Legal Ombudsman or Bar Standards Board but you must do so within six months of receiving the outcome of 4 New Square’s Complaints Procedure. The details of how to complain will be included in the report. If you are not a client, you will be referred to the Bar Standards Board only as the Legal Ombudsman only deals with client complaints.

You will be entitled to take your complaint to the Legal Ombudsman if you do not receive a final response from Chambers within eight weeks of your initial complaint.


The investigator may determine the following resolutions:

  1. an apology is given to you;
  2. a reduction in fees is charged; and/or
  3. appropriate training should be undertaken.

Subject to any appeal, that direction will be binding on the individual about whom the complaint was made.

Whether a complaint is upheld or not, the investigator may make a recommendation that any aspect of Chambers’ policies or procedures are amended. Any such recommendation will be discussed with the Head of Chambers and CEO.

Appeal process

If you are dissatisfied with the outcome of the investigation, you can submit an appeal request in writing to the Head of Chambers or CEO within 28 days of receiving the final investigation report.

If an appeal request is made, as soon as possible after the request is received, the Head of Chambers (or appointed deputy) will appoint two members of the panel (“the appeal panel”), neither of whom should have been involved in the original investigation, to conduct the appeal.

Within three days of appointment, the appeal panel will contact each party to the appeal in writing.

An appeal will be limited to a review of the procedure and outcome of the complaints process unless the appeal panel considers that it is necessary to undertake a fresh investigation of the complaint. Otherwise, the appeal panel will not consider any evidence which was not considered during the original investigation.

The person appealing the decision should provide written reasons within 14 days of being contacted by the appeal panel. Those reasons will be copied to the other party or parties, who must provide a written response within 14 days.

Thereafter, the appeal panel will produce a written decision within 28 days.

The appeal panel may extend time limits either at its own discretion or at the request of a party.


Throughout the investigation and after it has concluded, all correspondence and documents will be kept confidential and stored in accordance with 4 New Square’s Information Security and Data Privacy policies.

Disclosure of any details of an investigation will only be made as far as necessary for the purposes of:

  1. the investigation and resolution of the complaint;
  2. internal Chambers review for the purposes of improving practice (anonymised where necessary);
  3. complying with monitoring/auditing requests from the Bar Standards Board (anonymised where necessary); and
  4. disclosure to the Head of Chambers, Chambers Management Committee, the CEO and anyone involved in the complaint and its investigation, including the individual/s about whom the complaint is made.

Record Keeping

Chambers will keep records relating to complaints for 16 years from the date of resolution of the complaint. Absent any suggestion of knowing wrongdoing or concealment, the long stop limitation period in respect of most types of ‘professional negligence’ claims is 15 years from the date of the relevant breach of duty. One year is added to the retention period to account for any potential procedural delays. This retention period is in line with Chambers Data Privacy policies and the UK GDPR 2018. The bases for this retention period are following:

  • the client’s express consent at the point of instructions;
  • retention is in the interests of justice;
  • both the complainant and the subject of the complaint may require the documentation in future in the event legal proceedings are brought;
  • the long stop limitation period for professional negligence claims is 15 years; and
  • to allow the subject of the complaint to comply with their obligation under rC108 of the BSB Handbook.

Review, Monitoring and Audit

Chambers complaints file will be inspected regularly by management (Head of Chambers, CEO and Chambers Management Committee).  Papers should be anonymised for this purpose where necessary.

The CEO will report annually to the Chambers Management Committee on the number of complaints received, the subject area of the complaints and any trends, training or regulatory needs identified.  All such reports should be anonymised.

If you would like to know more or have a question please talk to our clerks

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