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Complaints Procedure

IDR GROUP – COMPLAINTS HANDLING PROCEDURE

1. While all Members, Consultants and staff seek to maintain high standards of service, there will be occasions when a client is dissatisfied with the service provided. In that situation, the client (professional or lay) will be invited to bring the matter to the attention of IDR Group as soon as possible.

2. These procedures are to be followed in all cases where a complaint is received about the service provided by Members, Consultants or staff. If there is any doubt about whether an adverse comment or criticism might amount to a complaint, it will always be safer to classify it as a complaint and to follow these procedures.

FIRST STAGE

3. Complaints about Members or Consultants: where a client (and for this purpose “client” includes a professional client AND/OR a lay client) is dissatisfied with some aspect of the service provided by a Member(s)/Consultant(s) he client should be invited to telephone the Member/Consultant concerned or the Head of IDR Group (as s/he may prefer) in the first instance with a view to resolving the matter swiftly and informally.

4. Complaints about Members of Staff: Where the complaint is about a member of staff, the client should be invited to telephone the Head of IDR Group. If the complaint is about the Head of IDR Group the client will be advised as to how their complaint may be directed.

5. The client should also be told at this stage that, if she/he prefers, she/he may make the complaint in writing.

6. Where a complaint is made by telephone, a note of the complaint should be made and, once dealt with, should be passed to the Head of IDR Group for entering into the complaints file. It should record – a) the name and address of the complainant;

b) the person about whom the complaint is made; c) the nature of the complaint;
d) what redress the complainant was seeking; and e) what action was taken and the outcome.

7. In many cases, the complaint will be resolved over the telephone during one or two calls. When that occurs, brief details of the complaint and the outcome should be recorder on the note of complaint. The client should be asked whether she/he is content with the outcome. If she/he is, that fact will be recorded. If the client is not content, she/he should be invited to put the complaint in writing within 14 days so that it may be investigated formally. At that stage, she/he should be sent a copy of the IDR Group complaints leaflet, unless it has already been provided. The leaflet also informs her/him of his/her right to refer the complaint to the Legal Ombudsman (in most cases) or to the Bar Standards Board where the Person complained about is a practising Barrister.

SECOND STAGE (Written Complaints)

8. A written complaint should be acknowledged within 7 days of its receipt. The acknowledgement should set out who is responsible for investigating it, any relevant description of the investigation procedure, the names of any others who might be involved in the investigation and when the client might expect a substantive response. The acknowledgement will be signed by the Head of IDR Group (in the case of a Member or Consultant). No Member, Consultant or member of staff should investigate a complaint of which she/he is the subject.

9. The aim will be to provide a substantive written response to the complaint within 14 days from the acknowledgement of its receipt. If it becomes plain that a response cannot be sent within 14 days, a realistic time frame should be set and the client informed accordingly

10.The Head of IDR Group will conduct their investigation in person. At his discretion, he may co-opt one or more Members or members of staff to assist them, bearing in mind that others should be informed about the case strictly and only on a “need-to-know” basis. If others are informed about or co-opted to assist in the investigation, the person about whom the complaint has been made will always be told who they are. In almost all complaint cases (eg except possibly for those about non-clerking staff), there will be a justification for informing other IDR Group people on a “need-to-know” basis.

11.The Head of IDR Group or a person delegated to act on their behalf (the “investigator”) should interview the person complained about and any other person she/he identifies as having something to contribute. She/he should review all relevant documents and, if necessary, revert to the client for further information and clarification.

12.The investigator should prepare a report for the client (with a copy to the Member or member of staff complained about). The report should set out all the matters referred to at paragraph 6 above, the nature and scope of the investigations carried out in respect of each complaint, her/his conclusions and the basis for her/his conclusions. Where a complaint is found to be justified, proposals for resolution as agreed with the person complained about, should also be set out. Details of the Legal Ombudsman’s and/or the Bar Standards Board’s complaints procedure should also be included where this is appropriate.

13.The report should be sent to the client within 14 days of the written acknowledgement of the complaint (or such longer period as has been communicated to the client in advance – see paragraph 9). A copy of the report should be provided to the Member/member of staff complained about.

CONFIDENTIALITY

14.All conversations and documents relating to a complaint shall be confidential and disclosed only to the extent necessary. COMPLAINTS MADE TO THE LEGAL OMBUDSMAN OR BAR STANDARDS BOARD

15.In the event that a complaint is not made initially to a Member or member of staff but is made direct to the Legal Ombudsman or Bar Standards Board, the first that may be known about it is in a letter from one of those offices to the member concerned. The relevant procedures of the Legal Ombudsman or Bar Standards Board will then need to be followed and, depending on the nature of the complaint, the BMIF alerted. The Member should alert the Head of IDR Group and provide him with a copy of the Legal Ombudsman/Bar Standards Board letter and all subsequent related correspondence. This is important for record keeping but also provides the opportunity for the Head of IDR Group to assist the Member, as may be necessary, in deciding how to handle the complaint.

RECORD KEEPING

16.Where the procedure ends after the first stage, the person responsible for recording the outcome on the note of complaint should ensure that the note of complaint is passed to the Head of IDR Group for filing in the Complaints file.

17.Where the procedure ends after the second stage, the investigator should ensure that the following documents are placed on the IDR Group complaints file –
• Note/letter of complaint (see paragraphs 6 and 7)

• Investigator’s report (see paragraph 12)
• All letters to and from the client
18.Where the complaint is initially made direct to the Legal Ombudsman or Bar Standards Board, the Head of Chambers should ensure that copies of all relevant correspondence between those organisations and the Member concerned are placed on the Chambers central complaints file.

MANAGEMENT COMMITTEE REVIEW

19.If it becomes clear that a complaint or series of complaints points to the need for a review of IDR Group’s procedure or practice, the Head of IDR Group will report the problem with his recommendations to address it to the Management Committee (as appropriate).

20. HOW TO MAKE A COMPLAINT

1. Our aim is to give you a good service at all times. However, if you have a complaint, you are encouraged to let us know as soon as possible.

COMPLAINTS MADE BY TELEPHONE

2. Complaints about barristers: if you have a complaint about a barrister and you would rather make it by telephone then please call the barrister concerned or, if you prefer, our Head of IDR Group Mr Anthony Connerty.

3. Complaints about Staff: if you have a complaint about a member of staff, please call our Head of IDR Group.

4. The person you contact will make a note of the details of your complaint and what you would like done about it. He will discuss your concerns with you and aim to resolve them. If the matter is resolved, he will record the outcome, check that you are satisfied with the outcome and record that you are satisfied. You may also wish to record the outcome of the telephone discussion in writing for your own record.

5. If your complaint is not resolved on the telephone, you will be invited to write to us about it within the following 14 days so it can be investigated more formally.

COMPLAINTS MADE IN WRITING

6. If you wish to complain about a barrister or member of staff in writing, please give the following details: your name and address, which barrister or member of staff you are complaining about; the detail of the complaint; and what you would like done about it.
For complaints about barristers Members or Consultants or members of staff, please address your letter to our Head of IDR Group Mr Anthony Connerty.

7. Your letter will be acknowledged within 7 days and an investigation will take place. In the case of a complaint about a barrister, this will be led by the Head of IDR Group. If the complaint is about the Head of Chambers, the investigation will be led by the most senior member of IDR Group below the Head of IDR Group. In the case of a member of staff, the investigation will be conducted by the Head of IDR Group personally.

8. In acknowledging receipt of your letter, you will normally be informed that you should expect a substantive response to your complaint within 14 days. In exceptional circumstances, a longer period may be fixed or if the “investigator” of the complaint finds out later that more time will be needed, he will set a new date for his substantive reply explaining why more time is needed. His substantive reply will set out – the nature and scope of the investigation; his conclusion on each complaint and his reason for it; and if your complaint is found to be partially or fully justified, his proposals for resolving it.
Complaints which may give rise to an Insurance Claim

9. If your complaint involves a matter which may give rise to a BMIF insurance claim, the barrister will be obliged to inform the Bar Mutual Indemnity Fund (the Bar’s insurer). The BMIF will then need to be consulted before any proposals can be put to you to resolve your complaint. This may constrain the speed with which we are able to respond in these circumstances.

CONFIDENTIALITY

10. All conversations and documents relating to the complaint will be treated as confidential and will be disclosed only to the extent that is necessary. IDR Group Members and staff to the extent stated in this procedure may be aware of the complaint since IDR Group maintains and administrates a central written record of all complaint cases.

OUR POLICY

10. As part of our commitment to improving client care, the central written record of complaints is reviewed regularly and any points arising which indicate a need for us to adjust an existing practice or procedure are:

11.Brought to the attention of the Management Committee and/or to the Legal Ombudsman or to the Bar Standards Board as appropriate.

12.We hope that you will use our procedure. However, if you would rather not do so or are unhappy with the outcome, you have the option of taking your complaint to the Legal Ombudsman or to the Bar Standards Board.

13.The Legal Ombudsman has the ultimate responsibility for dealing with complaints from our clients about the quality of our service.
The Ombudsman will expect us to try to address such complaints in the first instance but will step in to do so if that proves not to be possible. You can put your complaint to:

The Ombudsman

Legal Ombudsman, PO Box 15870, Birmingham B30 9EB Tel: 0300 555 0333
Email: enquiries@legalombudsman.org.uk
Website: www.legalombudsman.org.uk

14.If you are not a client of IDR Group and/or your complaint is about the professional conduct of one of our barristers then it would be more appropriate to address your complaint to the Bar Standards Board (the regulatory body for barristers) by writing to them at:

Complaints Department
Bar Standards Board
289-293 High Holborn, London WC1V 7HZ Tel: 020 7611 1444
Website: www.barstandardsboard.org.uk