1. 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.
2. Please note that the Legal Ombudsman, the independent complaints body for service complaints about lawyers (including barristers), has time limits in which a complaint must be raised with them. The time limits are:
- 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
- The complainant must refer the complaint to the Legal Ombudsman no later than six years from the act/omission, or three years from when the complainant should reasonably have known there was cause for complaint.
- The complainant must also refer the complaint to the Legal Ombudsman within six months of the complaint receiving a final response from their lawyer, if that response complies with the requirements in rule 4.4 of the Scheme Rules (which requires the response to include prominently an explanation that the Legal Ombudsman was available if the complainant remained dissatisfied, and the provision of full contact details for the Ombudsman and a warning that the complaint must be referred to them within six months).
3. Chambers will have regard to that timeframe when deciding whether we are able to investigate your complaint. Chambers will not therefore usually deal with complaints that fall outside of the Legal Ombudsman’s time limits referred to in paragraph 2(a) and (b) above. The Ombudsman can extend the time limit in exceptional circumstances.
4. The Ombudsman will normally only deal with complaints made by clients. This means that non-clients who are not satisfied with the outcome of Chambers’ investigation should contact the Bar Standards Board rather than the Legal Ombudsman.
5. 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 satisfactorily to 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 Chambers’ complaints process they will refer you to the Bar Standards Board.
6. Complaints can be made about any aspect of the service provided by members of Chambers or staff. If your complaint or elements of your complaint relates to professional misconduct or professional negligence, then it may be that it is not appropriate for Chambers to resolve it or those particular aspects of it. You will be informed if it is considered that your complaint is wholly or partially inappropriate for our Procedure.
7. Any complaint which involves an allegation of professional negligence or any other possible claim on the Bar Mutual Indemnity Fund Limited (“BMIF”) will be reported to the BMIF even though the complaint is being investigated by Chambers under our Procedure.
COMPLAINTS MADE BY TELEPHONE
8. You may wish to make a complaint in writing and, if so, please follow the procedure in paragraph 10 below. However, if you would rather speak on the telephone about your complaint, then please telephone the Senior Clerk, Lizzy Stewart, who has been nominated by Chambers to handle/manage the resolution of complaints made by telephone. If the complaint is about the Senior Clerk, please telephone the Head of Chambers, Nicholas Bacon QC. The person you contact will make a note of the details of your complaint and what you would like done about it. S/he will 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.
9. If your complaint is not resolved on the telephone, you will be invited to write to us about it so it can be investigated formally.
COMPLAINTS MADE BY WRITING
10. Please give the following details:
- Your name and address;
- Which member(s) of Chambers or staff you are complaining about;
- The detail of your complaint; and
- What you would like done about it.
11. Please address your letter to our Senior Clerk or our Head of Chambers at 4 New Square, Lincoln’s Inn, London WC2A 3RJ. The Senior Clerk can be contacted via email at: L.Stewart@4newsquare.com. The Head of Chambers can be contacted at: N.Bacon@4newsquare.com. We will, where possible, acknowledge receipt of your complaint within two working days and provide you with details of how your complaint will be dealt with.
12. The acknowledgement will inform you that there is a formal Complaints Procedure and that this will be followed. A copy of this Procedure will be sent with this letter. Additionally, this letter will inform you of your right to complain to the Legal Ombudsman, the timeframe for doing so, and full details of how to contact the Ombudsman (see also paragraph 22 below).
13. Our Chambers has a panel, which is led by the Head of Chambers and made up of experienced members of Chambers and the Senior Clerk, which considers any written complaint. Within 14 days of acknowledgement of the complaint, the head of the panel or his/her deputy will appoint a member(s) of the panel to investigate it. In the event of any applicable conflict of interest (for example, if your complaint is about the Head of Chambers) the deputy head or another member of the panel as may be appropriate will appoint a member or members of the panel to deal with it. In any case, the person(s) appointed will be someone other than the person you are complaining about.
14. The person appointed will write to you as soon as possible to let you know that s/he has been appointed. They will inform you that they are to investigate the complaint and that they will report back to you within 28 days. If it is, or becomes, plain that a response cannot be sent within 28 days a realistic timeframe will be set and you will be informed accordingly.
15. The person appointed will investigate your complaint and provide a reply to it. The reply will set out:
- The nature and scope of the investigation;
- The conclusion on each complaint and the basis for that conclusion; and
- If s/he finds that you are justified in your complaint, her/his proposals for resolving the complaint.
16. If the person appointed to investigate finds that s/he is not able to write to you or to provide a reply within the time periods above, s/he will set a new date for writing to you or providing a reply and inform you accordingly of the procedure and timetable to be adopted.
17. In the event of the person appointed upholding the complaint, he/she may direct (a) that an apology be given and/or (b) that there should be a reduction in fees charged and/or (c) that appropriate training should be undertaken and (subject to any appeal) that direction will be binding on the member of chambers or member of staff about whom the complaint was made; and in any event, whether the complaint is upheld or not, he/she may recommend that any aspect of chambers’ procedure be reviewed by the Chambers Management Committee.
18. If you are, or the barrister or member of staff against whom the complaint was made is, dissatisfied with the outcome of the complaints process, a request can be made that the outcome be the subject of an appeal. The complainant is not obliged to pursue an appeal and if they so wish may refer their complaint to the Legal Ombudsman without pursuing an appeal.
19. The appeal process is as follows:
- An appeal request must be made in writing to the Senior Clerk or the Head of Chambers at 4 New Square, Lincoln’s Inn, London WC2A 3RJ, and must be made within 28 days of being notified of the outcome of the complaints process.
- The appeal will be conducted by two members of Chambers (“the appeal panel”), who will be Queens Counsel, and who will be appointed to conduct the appeal by the Head of Chambers or (in the event of a conflict) the Senior Clerk.
- Within 3 days of appointment, the appeal panel will contact in writing each party to the appeal.
- An appeal will be limited to a review of the procedure and outcome of the complaints process unless the appeal panel considers, in the exercise of its discretion, that in the circumstances of an individual appeal it is necessary to undertake a fresh investigation of the complaint.
- Unless in the exercise of its discretion the appeal panel considers otherwise, the appeal panel will not consider any further evidence which was not considered in the course of the original investigation.
- The person appealing the decision will provide written reasons in support of the appeal within 14 days of being contacted by the appeal panel.
- Those reasons will be copied to the other party or parties, who will provide a written response within 14 days thereafter.
- The appeal panel will produce a written reasoned decision within 28 days thereafter, which will be the determinative decision for the purpose of this complaints procedure.
- Any time limits may be, in the exercise of the appeal panel’s discretion, extended by the appeal panel, either of its own motion or at the request of a party.
- Any exercise of discretion by the appeal panel will be binding.
20. All conversations and documents relating to the complaint will be treated as confidential and will be disclosed only to the extent that is necessary. Disclosure will be to the Head of Chambers, members of the Chambers’ Management Committee, the Senior Clerk and to anyone involved in the complaint and its investigation. Such people will include the barrister or member of staff about whom you have complained, the Head of Chambers or relevant senior member of the panel, the person who investigates the complaint and Chambers’ PA in an administrative capacity. Additionally, the Bar Standards Board is entitled to inspect the documents and seek information about the complaint when discharging its monitoring functions.
21. As part of our commitment to client care we make a written record of any complaint and retain all documents and correspondence generated by the complaint for a period of 6 years, after which time all documents and correspondence relating to the complaint are deleted/destroyed. Upon the conclusion of the complaint, only the Head of Chambers, the Senior Clerk and Chambers’ PA (in an administrative capacity) have access to the documents and correspondence relevant to the complaint, unless the complaint is escalated to The Legal Ombudsman. The Head of Chambers and Senior Clerk in conjunction with Chambers’ Management Committee annually review an anonymised record of complaints with a view to making any necessary changes to improve the service we give. In order to deal with complaints under this procedure it is necessary for us to process personal data of the complainant, and you are taken to consent to such processing of personal data for this purpose.
COMPLAINTS TO THE LEGAL OMBUDSMAN
22. If you are unhappy with the outcome of our investigation and you fall within their jurisdiction 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. Please note the timeframe for referral of complaints to the Ombudsman as set out at paragraph 2 above.
23. Those clients who are able to complain to the Legal Ombudsman are as follows:
- Businesses or enterprises that are micro-enterprises within the meaning of Article 1 and Article 2(1) and (3) of the Annex to Commission Recommendation 2003/361/EC (broadly businesses or enterprises with fewer than 10 employees and turnover or assets not exceeding €2 million);
- Charities with an annual income net of tax of less than £1 million;
- Clubs, associations or organisations, the affairs of which are managed by its members or a committee of its members, with an annual income net of tax of less than £1 million;
- Trustees of trusts with an asset value of less than £1 million; and
- Personal representatives or beneficiaries of the estates of persons who, before they died, had not referred the complaint to the Legal Ombudsman.
24. Please note that a complainant to the Legal Ombudsman must not have been, at the time of the act/omission to which the complaint relates;
- a public body (or acting for a public body) in relation to the services complained about; or
- an authorised person who procured the services complained about on behalf of someone else.
For example, where the complaint is about a barrister who was instructed by a solicitor on behalf of a consumer, the consumer can complain to the Legal Ombudsman but the solicitor cannot.
25. You can write to the Legal Ombudsman at:
PO Box 6806
Tel: 0300 555 0333
More information about the Legal Ombudsman is available here:
26. If you are unhappy with the outcome of the investigation, alternative complaints bodies (such as ProMediate) also exist which are competent to deal with complaints about legal services, should you and the barrister both wish to use such a scheme. If you wish to use ProMediate, please contact us to discuss this. Please also note that: (1) the time limit for contacting ProMediate is 14 days from the date that the complaint response is issued, which Chambers have the discretion to extend in exceptional circumstances and (2) if mediation is used, neither you nor the barrister is required to accept the proposed resolution. If mediation does not resolve the complaint, you may still make a complaint to the Legal Ombudsman (provided you fall within their jurisdiction and you do so within the time limit).
27. If you are not a Chambers’ 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
Tel: 0207 6111 444
28. To see details of individual members you can go to the Bar Standard Board’s Barristers’ Register here. The Barristers’ Register shows (1) who has a current practising certificate, and (2) whether a barrister has any disciplinary findings, which are published on the Barristers’ Register in accordance with the BSB’s policy.