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Complaints Handling Procedure & Legal Ombudsman Scheme

A: Introduction

  1. You may make a complaint direct to us about a barrister at AWC. You do not need to have a solicitor to make a complaint to us (though you may have one if you like).
  2. Members of AWC are independent professionals who join together in Chambers to provide services to themselves and their clients, including this Complaints Handling Procedure. Your complaint to the barrister will be handled by them.
  3. We encourage you to make any complaint promptly and we may decline to deal with your complaint if it is about something that happened more than two years ago.
  4. Our Complaints Handling Procedure is set out below. It is free of charge (there is no charge for making a complaint and we bear the cost of operating it).
  5. The procedure is voluntary. However, if you are thinking of making a complaint under The Legal Ombudsman Scheme ("the LeO Scheme") he will usually require you to make a complaint to us first.
  6. The LeO Scheme deals with complaints about the service received by the client whom the barrister was acting for in court (or advising out of court) whether he or she instructed the barrister through a solicitor or under the Public Access Scheme. Services provided by barristers in these chambers which are covered by the LeO Scheme mainly consist of advice given (on paper or verbally), documents prepared in the case and court appearances by the barrister (including any advice given, or negotiations which take place, outside court). A link to the Legal Ombudsman can be found here: https://www.legalombudsman.org.uk/ The Legal Ombudsman records data of the complaints it has investigated. That data can be found here: https://www.legalombudsman.org.uk/raising-standards/data-and-decisions/
  7. If your complaint involves allegations of professional misconduct or professional negligence it may be that our Complaints Handling Procedure is not suitable to resolve it, or part of it.  You will be informed if it is considered that your complaint is wholly or partially unsuitable for our Complaints Handling Procedure for this reason. 
  8. Any complaint which involves an allegation of professional negligence or any other possible claim on the barrister's insurers, the Bar Mutual Indemnity Fund Limited, will be reported to them even though the complaint is being investigated under our Complaints Handling Procedure. This is a requirement of the insurance.
  9. We do expect you to co-operate with reasonable requests for further information and for clarification of your complaint and we reserve the right to complete our Complaints Handling Procedure on the information you have given so far if you persistently or in substance fail to cooperate in these respects or fail to respond to our correspondence in a reasonable time or at all.
  10. Our procedure is mainly meant to deal with complaints by clients. If you are not a client, for example, if you are someone who was involved in a case but not the barrister's client (such as a solicitor, a witness or an opposing party); or if you want to make a complaint about a barrister's conduct unrelated to a particular case, you are free to make a voluntary complaint under our procedure which we will consider. However, in these situations your complaint is likely to be more suited to consideration by the Bar Standards Board or may be incapable of fair resolution because of the barrister's duty of confidentiality to his own client.  If it is considered that a non-client complaint cannot be resolved satisfactorily under our Complaints Handling Procedure, you will be informed and it is then up to you whether you take your complaint up with the Bar Standards Board. A link to their website can be found here: https://www.barstandardsboard.org.uk/complaints-and-professional-conduct/ . The Bar Tribunals and Adjudication Service investigate complaints made to the Bar Standards Board. Details of findings and sanctions can be found here: https://www.tbtas.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/hearings/4546/Approved-REport-of-Finding-and-Sanction-Wheaton.pdf

B: When and How to Make a Complaint

By Telephone

  1. You may complain by telephone or in writing. If you would rather speak by telephone, please call Alessandra Williams on 07882 264737.
  2. If Alessandra is not able to take your call, please send her an email requesting she call you back. You should say that this relates to a complaint but you should not give details of your complaint (or the name of the barrister or staff member) in this email or telephone message. This is to protect your confidentiality.
  3. When you speak to Alessandra she will make a note of the details of your complaint and what you would like to have done about it. She will discuss your concerns with you and aim to resolve them. If the matter is resolved she will record the outcome in an email to you. However if you are not saitsfied please go on to the next step.
  4. If your complaint is not resolved on the telephone you will be encouraged to make a formal complaint in writing within the next 14 days to enable an investigation to take place. If we do not receive a written complaint within 14 days no formal complaint will be recorded and we will continue our usual procedures.

In Writing

  1. To make a formal complaint in writing send a letter addressed to Alessandra Williams c/o AWC Legal, P O Vox 363, Tadworth, KT20 9EJ. Please note we cannot be held responsible for postal delays. Alternatively you can send an email to : This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
  2. Your letter should give the following details:

 

(1)         Your name and address. Please also give an email address and a daytime telephone number if possible. 

(2)          Your name and address The name of the barrister you are complaining about

(3)          Which member of chambers (or staff) you are complaining about.

(4)          What you are complaining about.

(5)          What you would like done about it.

  1. If you have a disability or are not fluent in written English and as a result have difficulty in carrying out this procedure yourself - and you do not have a solicitor - you may ask someone else to make a written complaint on your behalf. We may require proof that you have given him or her authority and on what basis.

C: How we will deal with your complaint

  1. All correspondence from us will be to the postal address or email address you have given us. It is up to you to ensure that you receive our correspondence.
  2. Alessandra Williams will acknowledge we have received your written complaint by writing to you as soon as reasonably possible, usually within 2 working days of receipt. ("Working days" means weekdays, excluding weekends and the usual public holidays). She will also send you a copy of this procedure, open a complaint file reflecting that there is a complaint on the case.
  3. The person appointed to deal with your complaint will ask you for any clarification or further information he or she believes is necessary to deal with your complaint. Usually our procedure is that the appointed person will consider your complaint on the material you have provided, put it to the barrister for a response and then put the response to you for any further comments you wish to make in answer to it, but the appointed person may vary this at their absolute discretion.
  4. The appointed person will within 28 days (four weeks) of his or her appointment send you a decision letter:

(1)          Summarising his or her understanding of your complaint (or complaints).

(2)          Summarising what investigations he or she has made

(3)          Setting out his or her conclusion on each complaint and brief reasons for the conclusion

(4)          Setting out any proposals the barrister makes for resolving your complaint. Possibilities include (a) an apology and/or (b) waiver of fees and/or (c) undertaking further training. If the complaint is against a member of staff any proposals for resolving your complaint will be put forward by his employers.

(5)          Informing you that if you qualify under the LeO Scheme, the time in which you may make a further complaint to the Legal Ombudsman.

  1. If more time is needed to reach a decision the appointed person will write to you within the 28 day period saying what the extended time for the decision letter will be. This will not exceed a total of eight weeks from the time your complaint is recorded, unless there is a good reason - which will be explained to you - and you agree.
  2. Except in a case of obvious factual error which you point out in writing in 14 days, or in the absolute discretion of the appointed person, our Complaints Handling Procedure ends with the decision letter. If you accept the barrister's proposals for resolving your complaint an agreement to that effect will be recorded and any steps we have to take (such as waiver of fees, a letter of apology or any further training) will be promptly dealt with. If you do not accept you may make a further complaint to the Legal Ombudsman within 12 months (one year) of our decision letter. Equally, if we have sent you a letter declining to deal with your complaint the 12 months will run from then.
  3. There is also an overall time limit for complaints to the Legal Ombudsman which is generally 6 years from the date of the incident complained about.

D: Records and Confidentiality

  1. All conversations with you during the Complaints Handling Procedure and all correspondence and documents produced by you or us in the course of our Complaints Handling Procedure are confidential and only for the purpose of carrying out the procedure, except that:

(1)          They may be referred to by you or the barrister or staff member involved, in a subsequent complaint to the Legal Ombudsman;

(2)          Under a regulatory auditing requirement we must keep records of complaints and permit inspection of them by the Bar Standards Board. We will keep our file for 6 years to comply with that requirement.

(3)          You agree that those implementing any further internal procedures arising from your complaint, and who are responsible for the monitoring of the complaints procedure and considering improvements to it - may be given sufficient information about your complaint to carry out their functions. Where possible information supplied to them about your complaint will be anonymised.

(4)          If it is necessary to make a report to Bar Mutual Indemnity Fund Limited you agree that we may provide them with full details of your complaint.

  1. So that we can comply with the regulatory requirement to keep a full record of complaints the only way to make a complaint to us about a barrister or member of staff of AWC is by this procedure. If you (or your Solicitor) make a remark suggestive of a complaint about a barrister or staff member to a member of staff and it is not resolved satisfactorily at the time, you (or he/she) will be asked if you wish to make a formal complaint and, if you do, you will be asked to put your complaint in writing within 14 days, under the procedure explained above. If you do not, no formal complaint will be recorded.

E: Complaints to the Legal Ombudsman or the Bar Standards Board

  1. If you are a Chambers' lay client and you are unhappy with the outcome of our Complaints Handling Procedure you may take your complaint up with the Legal Ombudsman or the Bar Standards Board. In general terms, the Legal Ombudsman deals with service complaints and the Bar Standards Board deals with professional misconduct and discipline. However, our understanding is that the Legal Ombudsman acts as a single point of contact for our lay clients and will refer any professional misconduct or discipline matters to the Bar Standards Board.
  2. The contact details for the Legal Ombudsman are:

 

Legal Ombudsman

PO Box 15870

Birmingham B30 9EB

Tel: 0300 555 0333

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

  1. If you are not a Chambers' lay client and are unhappy with the outcome of our Complaints Handling Procedure then you may wish to contact the Bar Standards Board:

Bar Standards Board
Professional Conduct Department
289-293 High Holborn, London, WC1V 7JZ
Tel: 020 7611 1444