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 and we will do our best to try to resolve it promptly, efficiently and courteously. 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 (“LeO”), the independent complaints body for service complaints about lawyers (including barristers), has a 6 year time limit from the date of the act or omission about which you are complaining within which to make your complaint (or within 3 years of when you first became aware of the problem if it happened more than 6 years ago) and the act or omission must have been after 5 October 2010. If the material events pre-date 5 October 2010, LeO may extend these time limits: see LeO’s Scheme Rules, 1 February 2013: http://www.legalombudsman.org.uk/aboutus/scheme-rules.html. Chambers will have regard to LeO’s time limits when deciding whether we are able to investigate your complaint. We are not obliged to deal with complaints that fall outside these time limits.
3. Our Complaints Procedure is aimed at dealing with complaints against members of Chambers or staff made by clients. If you are a non-client, your complaint may be more suited to consideration by the Bar Standards Board. If it is considered that a non-client complaint cannot be resolved satisfactorily through our Procedure, you will be informed and you may take your complaint to the Bar Standards Board.
4. 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.
5. 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
6. You may wish to make a complaint in writing and, if so, please follow the procedure in paragraph 8 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, Mark Cannon QC. If you wish, you may of course raise your complaint in the first instance directly on the telephone with the barrister concerned. 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.
7. If your complaint is not resolved on the telephone, you will be invited to and you should in any event write to us about it within the next 14 days so that it can be investigated formally.
Complaints made in Writing
8. 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.
Please address your letter to our Senior Clerk or our Head of Chambers at 4 New Square, Lincoln’s Inn, London WC2A 3RJ.
9. All complaints will be acknowledged in writing within 2 working days of receipt where possible, and in any event promptly. The acknowledgment 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 LeO, the timeframe for doing so, and full details of how to contact LeO (see also paragraph 15 below)
10.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. 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.
11. The person appointed will write to you within 7 days of his/her appointment to let you know that s/he has been appointed and to address any preliminary matters. Within 28 days thereafter, the person appointed will investigate your complaint and provide a reply to it. Before the reply is provided, you will be given the opportunity to respond to any comments from the member of chambers or staff on your complaint as appropriate. 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.
12. If the person appointed to investigate finds that 28 days is insufficient time and/or 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.
13. 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 Executive Committee of Chambers.
14. 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 complaint is not obliged to pursue an appeal and if they so wish may refer their complaint to the Legal Ombudsman without pursuing an appeal.
15. The appeal process is as follows:
(a) An appeal request must be made in writing to our Senior Clerk or our 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.
(b) 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 our Head of Chambers or (in the event of a conflict) our Senior Clerk.
(c) Within 3 days of appointment, the appeal panel will contact in writing each party to the appeal.
(d) 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 which will be binding, that in the circumstances of an individual appeal it is necessary to undertake a fresh investigation of the complaint.
(e) Unless in the exercise of its discretion which will be binding 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.
(f) The person appealing the decision will provide written reasons in support of the appeal within 14 days of being contacted by the appeal panel.
(g) Those reasons will be copied to the other party or parties, who will provide a written response within 14 days thereafter.
(h) 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.
(i) Any time limits may be, in the exercise of the appeal panel’s discretion which will be binding, extended by the appeal panel, either of its own motion or at the request of a party.
16. All conversations and documents relating to the complaint will be treated as confidential and will be disclosed only to the extent that is necessary for its resolution. Disclosure will necessarily be made to the Head of Chambers, the Senior Clerk and to anyone involved in the complaint and its investigation. Such people will include the barrister or employee about whom you have complained, the Head of Chambers or relevant senior member of the panel and the person who investigates the complaint. Additionally, the Bar Standards Board is entitled to inspect the documents and seek information about the complaint when discharging its auditing and monitoring functions.
17. 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. 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.
Complaints to the Legal Ombudsman
18. We hope that you will use and be satisfied by our Procedure. However, if you are unhappy with the outcome, you have the choice of taking up your complaint with LeO. You have 6 months from Chambers’ final decision in which to do this and you should in any event have regard to the timeframes set out in paragraph 2 above. LeO is not able to consider your complaint until it has first been investigated by Chambers. You can contact LeO at:
PO Box 6806
19. 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