Ministry of Justice

New ombudsman for complaints against lawyers

07 October 2010

Customers dissatisfied with their lawyers can now take complaints to a new national ombudsman.

Justice Minister Jonathan Djanogly officially launched the Legal Ombudsman service at its HQ in Birmingham city centre.

The independent service, funded by a levy on the legal profession, will make the complaints process simpler for customers and smoother for law firms.

It can impose penalties on lawyers found to be at fault, ranging from demanding apologies to compensation payments of up to £30,000.

‘High expectations’

The new service is replacing the current confusing system where eight different industry organisations, including the Legal Complaints Service and Bar Standards Board, handle complaints about their own sectors of the legal market.

Mr Djanogly spoke of his high expectations for the organisation last night as he met some of its caseworkers. Around 350 jobs have been created.

He said: 'The new Legal Ombudsman will make a real difference for people who want to make a complaint about their lawyer.

'As a lawyer myself I fully understand the vital part this will play in the regulatory system that helps maintain the high standing that our lawyers have around the world.'

Reforms

The Legal Ombudsman is the second part of three reforms brought about by the Legal Services Act 2007. The first was the creation of the Legal Services Board, the oversight regulator for the legal profession, which went live on New Year’s Day.

The final part will be the introduction of Alternative Business Structures (ABS) which will allow lawyers and non-lawyers to form partnerships providing ‘one stop shop’ type firms for customers looking for legal and other services. ABS is scheduled to go-live by the end of 2011.