In a bid to deal with its 30 per cent surge in complaints, the beleaguered Office for the Supervision of Solicitors (OSS), has announced it will no longer consider any case unless it has first been through the firm's in-house complaints procedure.
The OSS, still counting the cost of last month's flood damage, said research showed that 46 per cent of this year's complaints had not been referred to the firm concerned. From now on, complainants whose grievances have not been first dealt with by the firm concerned will be referred back to their origin.
The Law Society recently reminded firms that failure to attempt to resolve a complaint in-house could mean the OSS automatically awarding compensation to the complainant.
Twenty-four new conciliation officers have been appointed to help resolve disputes involving sole practitioners. In addition, the OSS is introducing a six-month time limit for clients to make a complaint if in-house procedures are unsuccessful.
Robert Sayer, Law Society deputy vice president and critic of the OSS, said: "It's a small step in the right direction."
But he added that the OSS should be restricting its role further: "Complaints in matters where solicitors don't have a monopoly - such as will writing - should be left to the open market. Rather than go to the OSS, let clients just go elsewhere or sue."