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:
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.
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:
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:
Investigator’s first letter
Once appointed, the investigator will write to you as soon as possible.
The first letter will:
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:
A response will be sought from the individual who is the subject of the complaint.
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.
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):
The investigation report will set out:
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:
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.
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:
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:
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.