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Complaints Policy

Woolliscrofts Solicitors are committed to providing a high-quality legal service to all of our clients. When something goes wrong, we need you to tell us about it. This will help us to sort out any mistakes or misunderstandings, and to improve our standards.

We regard any oral or written expression of dissatisfaction which alleges actual or potential financial loss, distress, inconvenience or other detriment as falling within the definition of a “Complaint” for the purposes of the operation of our internal Complaints Procedure.

If you are unhappy with a bill which you have received from us, then you should also be aware that, in addition to the availability of our Internal Complaints Procedure, Part III of the Solicitors Act 1974 also contains provisions which provide you with the right to object to a Solicitor’s bill and to apply to the Court for an assessment of the bill.

What should I do if I wish to complain?

In the first instance, clients are generally invited to raise any concerns or complaints which they may have with the lawyer who is dealing with their matter, as most problems prove capable of being swiftly resolved in this way without the necessity for proceeding to embark upon the more formal stages of Woolliscrofts Internal Complaints Procedure (as outlined below). However, if a client has a complaint which either the lawyer dealing with their matter has been unable to resolve (or otherwise failed to resolve) to their satisfaction, or if the client feels unwilling or unable to raise their concerns or complaint with the lawyer who is actually dealing with their matter, then clients are invited to contact the Director or Manager of this Practice who has responsibility for dealing with any complaints (details of whom appear in the following paragraph).

 
Who do I complain to?

If you have a complaint which you have been unable to resolve to your satisfaction with the lawyer dealing with your matter within a single telephone call (or which you have felt unwilling or unable to raise with the lawyer dealing with your matter) then, unless the complaint involves our Client Care Director, Chris Mason, please contact Chris Mason. You can write to him at 6-10 Broad Street, Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, ST1 4EU or by e-mail, clearly marking your letter or e-mail ‘FORMAL COMPLAINT’ at the top. If your complaint involves Chris Mason your complaint should instead be addressed to Andrew J. Barnett, Solicitor and Practice Manager, at either the same postal address or by e-mail.

If the relevant named individual for the purpose of handling any given complaint received by this Practice is absent from the office for a prolonged period (e.g. to extended periods of Holiday Leave or Sick Leave) then either Andrew Barnett (in the absence of Chris Mason) or, in the case of the absence of Andrew Barnett in relation to any complaint involving Mr Mason, our Compliance Officer for Legal Practice (Tom Jones) will either deal with the complaint personally or, alternatively, arrange for your complaint to be dealt with an appropriate alternative Director or Manager of this Practice. Shorter periods of Holiday or Sick Leave may, however, instead be dealt with in the manner described within numbered paragraph 10 below.

 
What will happen next?
  1. We will send you a letter or e-mail acknowledging your letter of complaint. You can generally expect to receive our letter within three working days of us receiving your written complaint. At the time of acknowledging receipt of your Complaint it may be necessary for this Practice to invite you to clarify your Complaint and / or to provide this Practice with further information.
  2. We will record your Complaint in our Central Complaints Register and open a file for your Complaint. We will endeavour to do this within one working day of acknowledging receipt of your written Complaint.
  3. We will then start to investigate your Complaint(s):
    1. We will ask the member of staff who acted for you and / or any other member of staff who may be of relevant to your Complaint(s) to give his or her comments on your Complaint(s) within five working days.
    2. We will examine his or her reply and the information in your file. We may need to ask them (and / or possibly yourself) for more information.
  4. Within 14 days of sending you the initial letter acknowledging your Complaint(s) or letter of clarification (whichever is the later) the Director or Manager dealing with your Complaint(s) will endeavour to invite you to a meeting to discuss and, hopefully, resolve your Complaint(s). If you do not want a meeting, or it is not practical or possible for a meeting to take place, the Director or Manager dealing with your Complaint(s) may instead offer you a chance to discuss the matter by telephone and / or invite your agreement to your Complaint(s) being dealt with in writing.
  5. Within three days of the meeting (or any telephone conversation we have with you insteadof a meeting) the Director or Manager dealing with your Complaint(s) will endeavour to write to you to confirm what took place and any solutions we have agreed with you.
  6. In any case the Director or Manager dealing within your Complaint will (subject to promptly receiving any clarification requested by us) endeavour to send to you within 21 days of sending you the written acknowledgement of your complaint referred to in paragraph 1 above a detailed written response to your Complaint(s), including (where appropriate) their suggestions for resolving the matter.
 
What happens if I am dissatisfied with the outcome of the initial investigation into my complaint(s)?
  1. At this stage, if you are still not satisfied, you should contact us again in writing within 1 month of the written response referred to within numbered paragraph 6 above to request a Review of that decision. In light of the fact that you do not accept the original decision this will be considered to be a rejection of that original decision by you. Upon receiving such a request for a Review, we will then arrange for the original decision to be reviewed. This will happen in one of the following ways:
    1. Another Solicitor (usually Andrew Barnett, unless he made the original decision subject to review) who was not involved in making the original decision in relation to your complaint will endeavour to review the original decision within 14 days of receiving your request for a review confirming our final position on your complaint and explaining our reasons. In light of your rejection of the original decision the decision made on Review may be different, less or more than the original decision.
      At the conclusion of such a Review, this Practice may, in its absolute discretion, consider it appropriate to invite you to agree to independent conciliation or mediation if you still remain unhappy with the outcome of our Internal Review, even if this Practice initially decided to proceed with the Review upon the basis of option a in preference to options b. or c. below.
    2. We will ask our local Law Society or another local firm of solicitors to review your complaint within five working days. We will let you know how long this process will take.
    3. We will invite you to agree to independent conciliation or mediation within five working days. We will let you know how long this process will take.
  2. In the case of options 7 b. or 7 c. above, we will endeavour to let you know the result of the Review within five working days of the end of the Review. At this time we will write to you to provide you with the Final Response of this Practice to your Complaint(s) and explaining our reasons.
 
What happens if I am dissatisfied with the outcome of the Review?
  1. If you are still not satisfied with the way your complaint has been dealt with following the conclusion of any Review of the original decision in respect of your complaint then you have the right to complain to the Legal Ombudsman – an independent complaints body, established under the Legal Services Act 2007, that deals with legal services complaints. PO Box 6806, Wolverhampton, WV1 9WJ about your complaint. Any complaint to the Legal Ombudsman must usually be made within 6 months of receiving a Final Response to your Complaint(s) from this Practice AND no later than 6 years from when the problem giving rise to your complaint occurred or 3 years from when you should reasonably have become aware of the issues(s) giving rise to your Complaint(s). In any event, the Legal Ombudsman will not accept Complaints where the act / omission or date of awareness were before 6th October 2010. Please, however, note that the Legal Ombudsman service cannot be used by businesses or most other organisations unless they are below certain size limits. Further details are available from the Legal Ombudsman.
  2. For further information, you should contact the Office of the Legal Ombudsman, whose contact details are as follows:
    Legal Ombudsman, PO Box 6806, Wolverhampton, WV1 9WJ
    T: 0300 555 0333 E: email enquiry W: visit their website
  3. Pursuant to the EU Directive on Consumer Alternative Dispute Resolution we are obliged to inform you that alternative complaints bodies (such as ProMediate – http://www.promediate.co.uk) exist which are competent to deal with complaints aboutlegal services should both you and our Company wish to use such a scheme. Unless Woolliscrofts Solicitors Limited expressly agree with you to the contrary in writing, we do not agree to use ProMediate or any other Alternative Complaints Body.
 
Time Limits
  1. If we have to change any of the timescales above (and this may sometimes be unavoidable due to the nature and / or complexity of the complaint and any pre-existing commitments of any of the people involved in the complaint), we will let you know and explain why.
  2. If no written Request for a Review is received by this Practice within the period of 1 month referred to within numbered paragraph 7 above, then (entirely without prejudice to what is said within numbered paragraph 12 below) the original decision made by this Practice is response to your Complaint(s) is to be treated as if it were a Final Response of this Practice for the purpose of triggering the commencement of the 6 month period referred to within the second sentence of numbered paragraph 9 above.
  3. Notwithstanding what is said within numbered paragraph 11 above, if you do not request a Review of the original decision of this Practice within the period of 1 month referred to within numbered paragraph 7 above but the Legal Ombudsman subsequently indicates a willingness to accept a complaint from you, then this Practice reserves the right to request that the Legal Ombudsman provide this Practice with an opportunity to invoke the Review Phase of our Internal Complaints Procedure prior to the Legal Ombudsman Service undertaking an investigation and / or proceeding to make an decisions upon your Complaint(s). For the avoidance of doubt, however, nothing contained within this paragraph is to be regarded as in any way extending the 6 month period referred to within the second sentence of numbered paragraph 9 above.
 
Equality & Diversity
  1. If you have any disability or other difficulty which you believe puts you at a disadvantage as a result of having your Complaint(s) handled in the manner set out above, then please immediately bring your concern(s) to the attention of the Director or Manager dealing with your Complaint(s), in order that the Director or Manager concerned can give consideration to the possible need for reasonable adjustments to be made to the procedure outlined above in order to accommodate your concerns.

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