Our complaints handling procedure

If you do not feel that the service we have provided met your expectations then it is important to us that you let us know. Please raise any concerns with the partner responsible for your matter, whether about the service itself or with any aspect of your bill. Their contact details were provided to you when you first instructed us. Our aim will always be to deal with your concerns as quickly as possible and without recourse to any formal complaints procedure, if that is possible. If you are an organisation client then we would also encourage you to raise your concerns with the partner who manages the relationship with your organisation.

If it is clear that you remain dissatisfied then you will be sent a copy of this document setting out our formal complaints procedure.

Stage 1

You should write to our Compliance Officer for Legal Practice, Rebecca Bell, at [email protected].uk who heads up our Professional Standards & Risk team. Please clearly mark your letter ‘Formal Complaint’ and outline the cause of your dissatisfaction and if possible any action you would like us to take to remedy your concerns. If there are any circumstances which make it difficult for you to make a complaint in writing, please call our Professional Standards & Risk team on 020 7551 7777 who will do all they can to assist you.

Stage 2

We will acknowledge receipt of your complaint within five working days and inform you of the name of the person who will look into your complaint. We take any form of complaint very seriously and as a result of our ongoing commitment to ensuring good client care and quality of service, we might outsource stage 2 of our complaints procedure to an Independent Complaints Handler. We believe that in some circumstances this can benefit our clients as it allows us to obtain an independent view on any complaints and gain constructive feedback on how our services can be improved. If your concerns are referred out to them, they will acknowledge your complaint within 5 working days and undertake a detailed investigation.

Stage 3

pThe person investigating the complaint will have full access to all the information and personnel that they require to investigate your complaint properly. They may contact you directly to discuss and confirm your heads of complaints and request any further information from you to assist the investigation. For more information, please see our Privacy Notice

We will ask the person investigating the complaint to recommend the action which they believe would be recommended by the Legal Ombudsman if the complaint was referred to the Legal Ombudsman.

Stage 4

The person investigating your complaint will provide you with an assessment report together setting out their findings and any relevant recommendations in respect of the issues you raise. A copy of the report will be first be forwarded to us. We will generally follow the recommendations made but if we think they are not appropriate we will explain our reasons to you.

We will investigate your complaint and provide our final response to you within 8 weeks of the date we receive it. We will not charge you for our time spent dealing with the complaint.

If we have to change any of the timescales above, we will contact you to explain why.

Stage 5

If for any reason you are not satisfied with the outcome, you can request a review of the findings by our managing partner. The review will take the form of a further investigation but merely focus on the report and findings from our Professional Standards & Risk team or Independent Complaints Handler. The request should be made in writing to [email protected].  We will acknowledge receipt of your request within five working days.

Legal Ombudsman

If you are still not satisfied, the next step is for you to contact the Legal Ombudsman (http://www.legalombudsman.org.uk/) by one of the following methods:

  • Telephone: 0300 555 0333
  • Telephone outside the UK: + 44 12245 3050
  • Email: [email protected]
  • By post: PO Box 6806, Wolverhampton, WV1 9WJ

The Ombudsman service is only available to members of the public, very small businesses, charities, clubs and trusts. If you are unclear about your position, you should contact the Legal Ombudsman direct to clarify whether or not they can deal with your complaint. Alternatively, please refer to the Legal Ombudsman’s scheme rules which are available by clicking on the following link:

http://www.legalombudsman.org.uk/downloads/documents/publications/Scheme-Rules.pdf 

You have the right to complain to the Legal Ombudsman at the conclusion of our complaints process providing you do so within 6 months of the date of our final written response. If you do not refer your complaint within that 6 month period your complaint may not be accepted by the Legal Ombudsman. You may also lose your right to refer a complaint to the Legal Ombudsman if it is more than 6 years since the event of which you are complaining or 3 years since you should have realised that you had a possible complaint.

Financial Ombudsman

If you have a complaint which relates to financial services (we will advise you if this is the case and provide you with an electronic copy of their consumer leaflet), when you have received our final response you can ask the Financial Ombudsman Service (www.financial-ombudsman.org.uk) to look into your complaint for you. This is a free independent service for resolving disputes between customers and financial services institutions. You have the right to complain to the Financial Ombudsman at the conclusion of our complaints process providing you do so within 6 months of the date of our final written response. If you do not refer your complaint within that 6 month period your complaint may not be accepted by the Financial Ombudsman. You may also lose our right to refer a complaint to the Financial Ombudsman if it is more than 6 years since the event of which you are complaining or 3 years since you should have realised that you had a possible complaint.

They will ask to see the letter as a summary of our investigation of your complaint. The Financial Ombudsman Service details are as follows:

  • Telephone: 0800 0234 567
  • Email: [email protected]
  • By post: Exchange Tower, Harbour Exchange, London E14 9SR

Solicitors Regulation Authority

The Solicitors Regulation Authority can help you if you are concerned about our behaviour. This could be for things like dishonesty, taking or losing your money or treating you unfairly because of your age, a disability or other characteristic.

We would hope that any concerns of this nature would be raised with the partner in charge of your matter but you can raise your concerns with the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

Alternative complaints bodies such as ProMediate (http://www.promediate.co.uk/) exist, which are competent to deal with complaints about legal services should both you and our firm wish to use such a scheme. Bates Wells does not agree to use ProMediate as we prefer the Legal Ombudsman’s clear adjudication process.

Complaints about Fees

If you are dissatisfied with our bill, you also have the right to apply to the High Court for an assessment of our charges by an Officer of the Court under Part III of the Solicitors Act 1974. We hope that before making such an application you would first use our complaints procedure explained above.

The Legal Ombudsman may not consider a complaint about a bill if you have applied to the court for assessment of it. Interest may be payable on all or part of a bill if it is unpaid.