My experience with the Law Societies customer complaints department through its various name changes,
has been an awful experience, and I have learnt many lessons in dealing with them.
The initial impressions were not in fact bad at all, and they appeared to be very helpful.
As the solicitors link outlines, I had received appalling service from a firm whom I had appointed to
represent me at an Employment Tribunal, not only that, but the bill had escalated out of all
proportion from the initial estimates given, reaching double the worse case scenario.
I had complained about the poor service in writing during the tribunal preparation, but on receiving
the final bill, I had sent a much stronger letter back to the firm detailing my feelings with regards to their
poor service and grossly inflated bill compared to the written estimate.
You will be assigned an investigator who supposedly investigates your complaints, and in my case, the initial
contacts were friendly, but in hindsight, not informative.
It was suggested by the investigator, as he said there appeared to be grounds for loss caused by negligence, I
should take proceedings against the solicitor. This seemed a good idea, but in point of fact it simply put more
money in the hands of yet another solicitor, and as I discovered, there was no way one solicitor will actively
act in a meaningful way against another. It was yet another disgrace where yet more money is made, and as I later discovered,
the Law Society will not act with regards to complaints of negligence, only poor service and similar low levels of complaints, you need to take legal action for losses caused by negligence etc.
This means that even if you take legal action to recover losses caused by a failure in service such as negligence, if the loss cannot be shown, (virtually impossible as I discovered), but the negligence can be shown, as in my case, then the law Society will still not investigate these "higher" levels of complaints, whether you lose a legal action or not, simply saying they do not investigate negligence. This allows the solicitor to be negligent, have no fear of being sued, as a loss must be proven, and no fear of the Law Society taking any action, a complete get out!
During discussions with the Manager of the legal claims department at a large insurance company, he informed
me cases against solicitors had spiralled in recent years, and when I asked him how many had been won as a
result of the complaints taken up, he said none up to that point in time, which speaks for itself!
I had been assured verbally by the Law Society that evidence uncovered by the second firm could be used
against the first firm, and as the evidence found seemed overwhelming, plus the second firm had made some pretty
clear derogatory statements in writing regarding incompetence, I felt sure proving poor service would be easy, but how wrong I was.
It was very clear the first firm had been at least highly negligent, but the second firm had done a very half hearted
attempt to show all this it had actually caused a loss, so I went back to the law society at least feeling I could prove
my case for poor service against the first firm, but as I was to discover, incompetence, negligence, and just about
all failures are either not covered by the Law Society, or come under the heading of strategy and professional opinion, and evidence supplied by other solicitors are NOT accepted by them, in the words of the investigator, they decide on the faults of the solicitor, not anybody else, which contradicted what I had been told.
The case having been shelved whilst the case for loss by negligence was being investigated, and the case was reopened, but with a different investigator, in fact several over the years it eventually dragged on, it seemed people were leaving or moving to other departments regularly.
A quick précis of the events are as follows: =
The investigator supposedly investigates the complaints, and then attempts to arbitrate, in my case as follows.
He rang me, and illustrated immediately he was in fact clueless about the actual case, and made generic statements
such as "you wrote him letters, and he replied, so really he did communicated with you OK". This was absolute rubbish.
The investigator claimed he had my final invoice, which I had paid in full so as to get the file, and he made claims that it said things that were simply not there, (I was holding the original in my hands), and it was not difficult to see what he was trying to do.
This meant that either the investigator was lying, (which in fact was shown later to be the case), or he had a doctored copy of the invoice.
The final straw was when I reminded him of the evidence he held from the second firm of solicitors basically showing how negligent the first firm had been, but the investigator responded saying just because he was negligent, it does not mean
his service was poor. Thus ended his pathetic attempts at arbitration.
Following on from this initial attempt to arbitrate, I made a formal complaint to the Law Society, and asked for a change of investigator. He had in fact been the 5th investigator I had been assigned during the full course of the events, the others apparently left or moved on.
My formal complaints were totally ignored, (as in not even acknowledged), so eventually I contacted the QA department
at the law society.
After the QA department got involved, I was eventually offered £400 compensation. This was to offset what was accepted as an appalling level of communication and poor service I had suffered at the hands of the investigator, including not responding to letters, and not keeping me informed, though none of these findings were put into writing, just an apologetic phone call asking for my bank details.
On the advice of the help line at the Ombudsman's office, I took the £400 on the strict understanding that I would now receive responses to my outstanding letters, and that things would be better. My request for a change of investigator was bluntly refused.
After over a year from the reopening of the case, 6 months after the attempt to arbitrate, It became obvious I was still not going to get responses to my letters from the investigator, and things had not improved, so I formally asked for the case to be frozen whilst my file and that of the investigator were synchronized, and I could be assured he had a full list of my complaints.
This request was accepted as a reasonable request by the QA department, but it did not happen, again no reply coming from the Law Society or the manager of the investigator, and eventually an unbelievably biased document was sent to the solicitor and myself which supposedly listed and outlined my complaints.
The letter sent to the solicitor by the investigator, clearly showed the investigation was a total sham, and simply building a defence for the solicitor, missing out the vast bulk of my complaints, and rephrasing the few he had actually bothered to note so as to make them sound ridiculous.
This basically is the second stage following the attempts to arbitrate, and in my case, simply confirmed the extent the law Society is prepared to go to defend its members.
As is the right of the complainant, I wrote a response to the letter supposedly outlining my complaints, listing the 17 that had been omitted, and correcting the huge errors of fact that had been evident in the letter that had been sent to the solicitor.
At this point I again wrote to the management of the investigator, including the QA department, advising them that the conditions under which I had accepted the £400 compensation for poor service from the Law Society had been blatantly violated, and as far as I was concerned, the initial formal complaint regarding their totally biased services was still outstanding. I then went on to list further complaints, including the ongoing appalling level of communications with the investigator. All again a waste of time, but at least I felt it left a paper trail for the Ombudsman to follow, not realising at that time it was just wishful thinking.
Over the following many months, I at first received a monthly letter saying I would receive a full and substantive response to my complaints, but these petered out in spite of my reminders, and I never did receive any full formal response to my complaints.
The investigator continued to ignore the fact that I had made formal complaints, and after some months, I received his final report.
This report was far worse than I could have ever expected even after seeing his letter supposedly listing my complaints that had been sent to the solicitor.
Out of 21 complaints made, 17 were dismissed as professional judgement/strategy, and one of them lack of evidence.
I had sent a full list of every document in the file of evidence sent, an index to the evidence, and details including page and paragraph where the evidence was. To see a complaint dismissed for lack of evidence, and to see blatant gross inadequacies dismissed as strategy or professional judgement, was to me appalling. It actually provided an abundance of clear evidence as to the lengths the Law Society is prepared to go to defend its members, though in truth, none of this evidence meant anything, as the Ombudsman section outlines.
With this final document is attached the supposed evidence to support both sides of the argument.
The solicitor had been asked to send evidence to counter my claims, but in his gross arrogance, he had simply sent a short statement saying how could he possibly be expected to remember a client from three years ago, when he has had thousands since, but then went on to recall with crystal clarity he said, events. He actually admitted he had not even looked at the file as he said the time it would take would not do justice to his partners.
This should have meant, as he had not offered any evidence as he had been requested to do by the Law Society, that my evidence would have prevailed, and the case proved, but instead, the investigator used the statements by the solicitor as though it was evidence.
The investigator openly and provably lied in a number of places, including some which I viewed very seriously, as they were not only totally without foundation, but designed to completely distorted the events out of all proportion and clearly meant to discredit my case whilst supporting the solicitor.
The complainant is invited to comment on this final report, your comments supposedly being sent with the final report to the adjudicator.
I wrote a full response, some 32 pages, going through all 17 complaints that had been dismissed, and the 4 that had been carried forward, once again noting evidence omitted by the investigator, and listing the lies that had been told, referencing the evidence where necessary to prove my assertions.
In my heart I knew by this time this was a total waste of considerable effort, but at this stage I wanted it to be clear I had given every opportunity to the law society to be aware of the truth, and this would be noted by the ombudsman, (how naive I was).
Your comments on the final report, with the comments of the solicitor, goes for adjudication, or supposed to.
As the reasons given for dismissing the 17 complaints were ludicrous, and the lies blatant, I also wrote to my MP, asking for his help, and though I did get letters of commiseration, and comments that it was known that the complaints process was "inadequate", there was no support in any real terms.
At the end of all this, an investigation by the QA department showed my submissions and evidence were never given to the adjudicator, my file had been mislaid, though this was not stated in writing, and I was awarded a further £500 compensation, but the case remained closed! and I was never sent a formal written response to my complaints regarding the way the case was mishandled.
After just a few months, the results of the adjudication were sent to me. He had found three of the four complaints carried forward were in fact,inadequacies, including failure to put a valuation on the case negating my ability to arbitrate, (later valued at £232,000), failure to provide proper costs and estimates, agreeing that the written worse case scenario of £6000 had been very much exceeded, and failure to apply for a remuneration certificate as I had correctly requested. He upheld the dismissing of the 17 complaints the investigator had deemed strategy or professional judgement without any referral at all to my input.
The remuneration certificate, which is supposed to be a detailed account of his charges, has to be requested within 30 days of receiving the final bill. I had requested it in time, in writing, though the solicitor had denied this. He was given a 3 year extension by the adjudicator, allowing him to bypass the complaint. The solicitor still did not send one!
One of my complaints had been that the solicitor had used documents from my file, and the file of other clients, as scrap paper. This meant that in my file which I had been given on full payment of the invoice, I had found numerous documents from other peoples files containing highly personal information, including in some cases their place of work, salary, and even extracts of statements they had made.
The adjudicator stated this did not prove that my documents had been put into other peoples files, and therefore did not prove loss of confidentiality. Yet another glaring example as to the lengths the law society goes in protecting its members.
I was awarded a total of £400 compensation to be given by the solicitor! which equated at that time to about 1.5 hours pay.
I was disgusted, and appealed against the decision, but as I discovered, my evidence and submissions all bound in a folder went missing, then apparently found and given to the appeal panel, when in fact I was told by the QA department they never saw it.
All that work preparing detailed evidence, wasted.
In total, I received £900 for failures by the complaints department to follow procedures, plus the £400 compensation from the solicitor. The Ombudsmen, whose help line had strongly advised taking the total of £900, later said that as I had accepted the money, the failures in following procedures had been compensated. The fact that I had accepted the money provisional on them redressing those failures was ignored.
I can say now what in fact I was aware of since the phone call from the investigator when he attempted to arbitrate.
Evidence means nothing if it supports your complaints.
The investigator can and will lie to defend the solicitor, this clearly condoned by management.
The whole function of the Law Society and its so called complaints department is apparently to defend and protect the solicitors.
If in the end your are as tenacious and persistent as I was, you may be eventually awarded as much as £400 in compensation to offset losses, in my case, of nearly a quarter of a million pound.
Information gleaned by the another firm of solicitors is only admissible if it supports the defending solicitor. If it supports your case it becomes inadmissible!
The whole process is designed to give an illusion of being able to input, where as in reality your input is filtered and modified, or even mislaid, to a frustratingly high degree, and makes for a soul destroying methodology, clearly honed from years of defending solicitors. It has to be stopped!
The blatancy of the lies and deceit can only stem from the feeling of invulnerability enjoyed by the Law Society, justified by years of easily getting away with it.
The law society repeatedly told me that if I am not happy with the outcome, I could go to the legal ombudsman. This route will simply add to the frustration, as they have informed me there can only be one of three possible outcomes.
1) They find my case was properly investigated and the file is closed.
2) They find the case was poorly investigated and I will be given a small award of usually a few hundred ponds, and the file is closed.
3) They find the case was badly investigated, a small award of on average at that time £400 is paid, and they send you back to the Law Society.
None of the above are satisfactory to me, which is why I involved my MP. To date I have had a responses from Sir Stephen Lander, who has now left office, (see his final report on the Law Societies web site, interesting reading, he clearly had lots of problems!). And I have also had a response, via my MP, from the under secretary of state, not very positive, mainly commiserating.
As a result, I have long since given up trying to generate interest with Parliament I am afraid.
Update 26th February. I have just received the decision of the appeal panel, and surprise surprise, they uphold the findings of the adjudicator. Their findings consist of a single page, saying most of my input for the appeal was based on the professional behaviour of the solicitor, (rubbish), which they will not investigate. They say there may be grounds for negligence, but I would need a solicitor to pursue that, as they do not investigate negligence!
Following an equally bland decision by the Ombudsman, the ombudsman directed the Law Society to respond to one of my letters which asked for the case to be reopened following an important document coming to light.
This document, which was in fact obtained at the direction of the appeal committee when they wrongly thought it would support a key issue in the solicitors favour, turned out to do the complete opposite, and in fact proved he had lied. They in fact should have waited for this document before reaching their conclusions. I had therefore asked for the case to be re examined, my request simply ignored with no reply.
The Law Society ignored the direction by the Ombudsman, which was not enforced.
A totally corrupt and evil process designed to frustrate and destroy people, which, from the feedback from this site, the carefully designed system has affected the lives of many people, and in doing so, has discredited the entire complaints process.
I have had many letters from people over the ten years or so this site has been going, so many of them illustrating a seemingly far higher degree of loss and injustice than I in fact suffered.
It continues to amaze me that a system can be so grossly unfair, yet simply by changing the name of the complaints interface, and possibly paying out a pittance to more people than before as compensation, it is thought it should be able to continue, and a hard core of solicitors allowed to flaunt the rules they are supposed to abide by, bringing the whole of the profession into disrepute as a direct result..
When I had my problems in the early 2000's, a solicitor could be struck off, but only had to be proposed and seconded by a colleague to be reinstated within weeks, a short simple form. I would like to think that has changed, but I have no intention of finding out, as there was so much wrong with the whole process, the chance of a solicitor being struck off must have been minuscule, and the process to do it daunting, and I doubt if that has changed very much, and I feel I have spent enough of my life trying to put right a well documented grossly unfair system.
I think though what upset me the most, was the firm receiving an excellence award by the Law Society only months after my case was closed.
My appalling experience with the
complaints department at the Law
Just like the Hydra, one head gets cut off, and
they just change the name of the complaints
department and another head has grown!