Now that Mr Ross has resigned as director of the Office for the Supervision of Solicitors (OSS), and without commenting on the circumstances surrounding that event, it is fair to acknowledge that much of what he did in his term was well done and soundly based. The major problems of his era – the mounting delays and growing arrears in handling complaints – were symptoms not of personal incompetence, but of a collective failure or reluctance on the part of the profession and its leaders to address the OSS's underlying difficulties, i.e, the volume of complaints and the lack of resources. In that regard, it has to be recorded that latterly the council recognised the problem and voted an extra u10m for the OSS's budget. His part in achieving that decision was a major triumph.
Peter Ross made many much needed improvements. These included the Practice Rule 15 reforms on the initial handling of complaints, the development of the Local Conciliation Officers' Scheme, the launching of the consultancy scheme to help firms in handling complaints, the drafting of written standards of conduct for OSS staff, the use of informal complaints handling and developing quick monitoring visits. Of course, not every weakness was overcome, but he greatly improved the OSS. His successors will have to resolve the complaints and the weaknesses in the management structure. However, they will have the advantages of better funding, the Ernst & Young report, (effectively adopting the strategy he advocated), and the solid base of his reforms. It is hoped the profession's leaders will find a worthy successor, and give him support, which until recently was lacking.
Michael Buck, Hertfordshire, and Alex Alagappa, former chairman of the British Legal Association.