Manzoor slams amendments to Legal Services Bill

The legal services ombudsman Zahida Manzoor has voiced concerns about the detail of the Legal Services Bill.

Manzoor, in her annual report, urged the Government to ensure the reforms deliver what was intended for the consumer and the profession.

The report states that Manzoor is particularly concerned that recent amendments made by the House of Lords, some backed by the Bar Council and the Law Society, may attack the very core of the principles laid down in the bill.

Manzoor argues that if those amendments stand, the proposed Legal Services Board’s ability to act as an overarching regulator will be weaker than those originally envisaged. She states that the Government should consider whether the set up costs of the new arrangements, estimated to be in excess of £32m, are cost effective or viable.

In the annual report, the ombudsman states she was not satisfied with almost a third of the cases brought by consumers complaining about the services received from the Law Society.

Manzoor also found the Law Society’s performance to be well short of where a modern, customer focused organisation should be.

The report, however, commends the Bar Council’s regulatory arm, now the Bar Standards Board, with satisfaction in 84 per cent of cases reviewed.

Between 1 April 2006 and 31 March 2007, the Office of the Legal Services Ombudsman completed 1,886 investigations into complaints with 1,783 new cases were accepted during that period.

Complaints about solicitors comprised 89 per cent of the ombudsman’s workload. The total amount awarded in compensation last year was £98,614 at an average of £411 per award.