Independent 'visitor' to monitor OSS

Solicitors unhappy about the way complaints against them have been handled are set to get an independent “visitor” to whom they can appeal.

The idea for an adjudicator to oversee the work of the Office for the Supervision of Solicitors (OSS) has won the support of the Law Society’s policy committee.

And the society’s ruling council is expected to approve the setting up of a working party to look at ways of funding the scheme when it meets this Thursday.

The idea is the brainchild of former Law Society president Martin Mears, who said the visitor should be a retired judge or someone of similar standing.

“We have got to get someone of calibre, it cannot be a establishment stooge,” he said.

As well as reviewing the handling of individual complaints, it is proposed that the visitor should also have the power to undertake random spot checks on OSS files.

Currently, solicitors, unlike their clients, cannot go to the Legal Services Ombudsman if they are unhappy about the handling of a complaint.

Many have bemoaned the fact that they have no redress other than costly and lengthy judicial review proceedings.

But there is some opposition in the Law Society to the scheme because of fears it could undermine the OSS’s authority

Paul Pharaoh, chair of the Law Society’s compliance and supervision committee, is understood to be among its opponents, although he was unavailable for comment.

However, OSS director Peter Ross said he did not object to the scheme. “If it lifts confidence in the decision-making then I would not see a problem with this,” he said.