DEWAR HOGAN – COMPLAINTS PROCEDURE.
We are committed to providing a high-quality legal service to all our clients. When something goes wrong we need you to tell us about it. This will help us to improve our standards.
How to complain
1. If you have a complaint, whether it relates to a current matter or one that has been concluded, we invite you to address this informally with the fee-earner handling your matter in the first instance. The person who is already familiar with your file is in the best position to provide a prompt, clear response to your concerns and we find that most points raised by our clients can be resolved in this way without any formal process being needed.
2. In some cases where a matter is being dealt with by a junior fee-earner your complaint may be referred to the partner supervising the matter, perhaps because he has a better understanding of the implications of steps that you are concerned about, or because the nature of your complaint is such that we feel it would be more appropriate for it to be dealt with by a senior member of the firm.
3. If your complaint has not been referred to a partner by us, but you would prefer to speak to a partner rather than the junior fee-earner who has been working on your matter then you are free to do so. There may be a short delay in responding to you in this instance as the partner in question may need to read through your file before he will be in a position to discuss your complaint with you.
4. We endeavour to respond to all complaints promptly. If there is likely to be a delay in responding, for example in the circumstances described in paragraph 3 above, we will let you know when you can expect to hear from us.
5. If you are not happy with our response, think that we are taking too long to respond, or do not feel that your concern can appropriately be dealt with informally, we request that you use our Formal Complaints Process as set our below.
Formal Complaints Process
6. To make a formal complaint please put all your concerns in writing to our senior partner, Mr Ronald Hogan. We ask that you include all complaints in a single letter and, where possible, set multiple items out as a numbered list. This helps us to make sure that we reply to all the concerns that you have.
7. Your letter of complaint should include:
- Your name and address. If you instructed our firm jointly with another person you should also state whether you are writing on behalf of yourself and that person or for yourself only.
- The name of the person or persons about whom you are complaining.
- The fact that this is your formal letter of complaint to be dealt with under our formal complaints procedure.
- What form of redress you are seeking.
8. We will acknowledge your letter within fourteen days of receipt. If it is not clear from your letter, we will tell you that we are treating your letter as a formal letter of complaint. We will also tell you who will be handling your complaint and when you can expect to receive our formal reply to your complaint. This should always be within eight weeks of our receiving your letter of complaint.
9. We will record your complaint in our central register and open a separate file for your complaint.
10. If, having reviewed your complaint, we need to ask you for further clarification before we are able to respond then we will write you asking for that information. Our letter will:
- Clearly state that it is an interim letter requesting further information, not our formal letter of response
- State whether or not the time estimate for providing our response given in our acknowledgement letter still stands, and provide an updated time estimate if appropriate. We will always endeavour to ask for any further information promptly and avoid delaying our letter of response if we can. You should always receive our letter of response within eight weeks of making your complaint.
- Clearly set out the extra information that we need from you in order to respond to your complaint
- Indicate a reasonable date by which we ask you to provide the requested information. If you do not reply within a reasonable time, or do not provide the information requested, then we will still endeavour to provide a letter of response within eight weeks of receiving your complaint. Our letter of response will then clearly indicate those matters that we are unable to respond to fully through a lack of information.
11. Following our acknowledgement of your letter, and any request for further information if appropriate, we will review your complaint and our file and write to you with a formal response. If you have set out multiple complaints in a clear list then we will include a separate response to each complaint within our letter. If you have not listed points, or have not listed them clearly, but it seems to us that your letter of complaint does raise multiple points, then at the beginning of our response we will list the different concerns we have identified in your letter and our letter will respond separately to each of these points.
12. If we consider that you have valid cause for complaint we may take one or more of the following steps to rectify the situation.
- Write to you to apologise for an error or omission that has caused you concern or damaged your interests
- Reduce your outstanding bill, or refund all or part of monies paid to us in respect of our professional charges
- Offer to pay compensation for any loss that you have suffered
- Offer to undertake further work without charge either to remedy a situation that has arisen or as a good-will gesture
- Invite you to attend a meeting with us to discuss your concerns in more depth
- Invite you to participate in an independent mediation
- Propose such other steps as the Partners may think appropriate to address your concerns
13. Where appropriate we may make our offered remedy conditional on you agreeing that the steps we propose will be in full and final settlement of your complaint.
14. If we think that you might have a claim in Negligence against us we will always advise you to take independent legal advice. If this happens we will also have to stop acting for you, if we have not already done so. This is part of our professional obligations under the Solicitors Code of Conduct. In some situations once we have advised you to take independent advice we will not be able to comment further on your complaint. We will tell you if this is the case with your complaint.
If you are not satisfied
15. If you are not satisfied with our letter of reply then you should write to us again to tell us this.
16. On receipt of your letter your complaint and our reply will be reviewed by another partner or senior fee-earner within one week. Wherever possible this person will be someone who was not involved in working on the matter that your complaint relates to. We will then write to you again and either:
- Offer you a further or alternative remedy from among those described at paragraph 6.
- Refer your complaint for external evaluation
- Inform you that we will not be pursuing your complaint further and that our letter of reply remains our final position. In this event if you still feel that you have cause for complaint against us you should seek redress through an external process.
Pursuing a Complaint through external channels
The organisation with responsibility for dealing with complaints about solicitors has recently changed. If you wish to make a complaint about the service we have provided you should now contact the Legal Ombudsman. The Ombudsman’s address is: Legal Ombudsman PO Box 6167 Slough SL1 0EH and their telephone number is 0300 555 0333. You can find more information about the service they provide and how to make a complaint to the Ombudsman on their website: www.legalombudsman.org.uk. Please note that if you go directly to the Ombudsman without engaging with our internal complaints process then the Ombudsman will almost certainly delay dealing with your matter while we are given the opportunity to consider your complaint and respond to it. The Ombudsman will usually allow eight weeks for us to do this. The Ombudsman will usually only consider a complaint if it is made within one year of the facts from which it arises and within six months of your receiving a final response under our internal complaints procedure.
If you think that you may have a claim in negligence against us, you should take independent legal advice. The Legal Ombudsman is not able to give legal advice or to advise on court procedures. If you are concerned about the cost of consulting a solicitor you can contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau (http://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/) or seek advice through a solicitors’ pro bono scheme (http://www.lawworks.org.uk/)
Exceptions and Exclusions
We will not usually consider complaints raised more than a year after we have stopped acting for you unless you can provide an adequate explanation of why your complaint was not made sooner.
We will not usually consider complaints which are in fact repetitions of complaints which have been made previously.
We may decide not to consider a complaint if we believe that it is not founded in a genuine grievance but is purely malicious or trouble-making. We may be more likely to conclude that a complaint does not arise from a genuine grievance if a new point is raised after a formal complaint has been made and dealt with under this procedure, if we cannot see why the new complaint was not included in the original letter of complaint.
All conversations and documents relating to the complaint will be treated as confidential and will be disclosed only to the extent that it is necessary.
Under no circumstances will we charge you for the time spent considering and responding to your complaint.