Law Soc slammed again over complaints handling

The Law Society has yet again come under fire over its complaints handling after the Legal Services Complaints Commissioner published her first annual report.

The commissioner, Zahida Manzoor, criticised the lack of progress in the way the Law Society conducts its complaints handling. In particular, she said the society lacked key skills to plan and deliver change in the area.

The report shows that the Law Society managed to improve slightly on 2004 but still has a long way to go before meeting Manzoor’s targets for next year.

Additionally, the number of cases outstanding for more than 18 months has increased, with 6 per cent of all complaints still open.

Manzoor said this was “not particularly encouraging, given that I specifically advised the Law Society to reduce its longer-running cases”.

Customer satisfaction with complaints handling improved marginally between 2004 and 2005, rising 2 per cent to 61 per cent. Manzoor said she wanted the Law Soc-iety to manage customer expectations better in the future.

In her other role as Legal Services Ombudsman, Manzoor found that the society reduced its live caseload of complaints by 13.5 per cent from 2004. She investigated 1,265 cases from dissatisfied complainants and was satisfied with the Law Society’s handling of 62 per cent of those.

Manzoor was happy with the Bar Council’s management of 78.7 per cent of cases referred to her. However, 38.2 per cent of the bar’s 455 complaints were referred to the ombudsman, compared with just 7.4 per cent of the Law Society’s 17,074.

Law Society complaints handling
Cases cleared within 2002-2003 (%) 2003-2004 (%) 2004-2005 (%) Complaints Commissioner’s 2005-06 target (%)
3 months 48 42 51 53
6 months 73 65 72 75
9 months No target No target 83 85
12 months 89 87 88 92
18 months 95 95 94 98
Source: Office of the Legal Services Complaints Commissioner