Legal Ombudsman to ‘name and shame’ complained-about lawyers

Law firms and lawyers who have had a series of complaints upheld against them will be named and shamed by the Legal Ombudsman (LeO) from April next year.

The Office of Legal Complaints (OLC), which oversees LeO, said today it was “right” to name lawyers who have had complaints made against them in “specific circumstances”.

The move follows a consultation by the OLC on how it should continue to regulate after the implementation of the Legal Services Act.

In its response to the consultation the Bar Council dismissed the move to full transparency advising that the LeO “should not name individual lawyers or firms”, although it should publish formal decisions “in full”.

In its response to the consultation it said: “We support the policy which the BSB

has practised – namely, publication of the names of barristers if found guilty of professional misconduct, but not those who are guilty of no more than inadequate professional service.

“That is to say, the BSB policy has been to publish names in the more serious cases, but not in the less serious.”

The Law Society and Institute of Legal Executives also raised concerns that the move would disproportionately affect sole practitioners who work in areas of law that are understood to have a higher proportion of complaints, such as family.

However, OLC chair Elizabeth Francis today said greater transparency would mean greater service value for legal users.

She said: “We consider we’ve struck a balance between protecting consumers and encouraging an independent and strong legal profession. Every day we know most lawyers do a good job for their clients – but there are some who simply don’t.

“That’s why it’s in the profession’s interest to make sure all who provide services to consumers are doing so effectively.”

Every three months the Legal Ombudsman will also publish lawyers’ names and firms involved in all complaints that have been resolved by a formal Ombudsman decision.