The Law Society has announced plans to slash by a third the £9m budget of the beleaguered OSS in 2001.
As it announced the plans it also pledged to tackle guilty firms and improve the procedure for complaints resolution.
A managing partner of a top five firm says: “There's a general acknowledgement that the OSS is not doing a good job. If its resources are cut even further, it's not looking very optimistic.”
“For the man on the street, if all he hears about is thousands of complaints against crooked solicitors taking years to sort out, it doesn't reflect well on the profession as a whole and it is up to the Law Society to sort it out.
And Tony Williams, managing partner of Clifford Chance, says: “There is a major concern about the time taken to deal with complaints. It's a public confidence issue and it needs to be addressed.”
However, City lawyers welcomed the Law Society's plans to act against the 20 per cent of solicitors' firms which generate 80 per cent of complaints.
The Law Society refused to reveal details of the plan – devised by its compliance and supervision committee – to tackle the culprits.
But, with the Government threatening to intervene in the complaints procedure through amendments to the Access to Justice Bill, one idea being floated by the Law Society is to force lawyers to deal with gripes immediately.
The planned cuts in the OSS budget come as the watchdog must investigate 32,000 complaints this year – 9,000 more than in 1996 with only seven more staff and a budget increase of only £800,000.
Law Society vice-president Robert Sayer says: “We all know it would take a bloody miracle to get there, but everybody is trying to make the OSS more efficient and cheaper.”