How to make a complaint
1. Mistakes happen and an apology should be offered whenever appropriate.
2. In order to reduce the risks of complaints and to resolve complaints if and when they arise it is important to have data and to monitor that data periodically to review performance and identify areas of strength and weakness. Therefore :-
a) Records shall be kept of :-
i) All complaints and their outcome (in the corrective action request master log).
ii) All cases where briefs have to be returned.
iii) All failures to complete work on time.
iv) The distribution of work to members of chambers and pupils.
b) Performance will be monitored by :-
i) Monthly reports to the executive board and an annual report to chambers summarising the information in the records listed in paragraphs (a)(i)-(iv).
ii) Annual surveys of client satisfaction with the service received from chambers.
iii) Biannual surveys of client satisfaction with members of chambers.
iv) Annual surveys of tenants’ satisfaction with chambers and its administration and clerking.
v) Quarterly surveys of pupil satisfaction with chambers and its administration and clerking.
vi) Staff comments on their satisfaction with chambers made during their appraisals.
The executive board shall consider the information supplied in (i)-(vi) and take such action as may be required to remedy areas of weakness including setting performance indicators.
3. The executive board will ensure that performance indicators/standards are set and published to all members of chambers, pupils and staff in the Quality Procedures Manual and to such solicitors as shall seek them. The performance indicators/standards will be set for such areas as the executive committee shall decide are required for Bar Standards Board accreditation purposes and shall in any event stipulate :-
a) The timescale for :-
i) The provision of written or oral opinions in the absence of any timescale specified by the solicitor when delivering instructions or agreed by the solicitor after delivering the instructions.
ii) Endorsing briefs, issuing fee notes and returning briefs to solicitors.
iii) Answering telephones.
iv) Responding to messages.
b) The arrangements for returning briefs.
c) The arrangements for the delivery of papers prior to a hearing or conference.
d) The arrangements for the presentation of papers for billing and return to solicitors.
Handling Complaints and Grievances
4. Tenants, pupils and chambers’ staff shall treat complaints and grievances confidentially.
5. Complaints which may lead to a claim for damages or wasted costs orders should be notified to the BMIF as soon as the risk becomes apparent.
6. Complaints or grievances which indicate that serious professional misconduct may have occurred should be notified to the head of chambers as soon that this becomes apparent.
7. Any complaint or grievance shall be entered on a corrective action request form when made and whether or not resolved informally and the form kept by the senior clerk together with all relevant documentation until the complaint or grievance is resolved. Corrective action requests will be recorded by the administration manager in the corrective action request master log and all papers relating to resolved complaints and grievances will be held by him for a period of one year following the date of resolution.
8. A friend or union representative may assist a staff member and a friend or other representative may assist a pupil who is a party to a complaint or grievance at any stage.
9. Where a complaint or grievance, if established, would justify disciplinary action against a member of staff the disciplinary procedure shall be applied to determine the complaint in conjunction with this complaints/grievance procedure.
Equality and Diversity
10. Where a complaint or grievance involves an allegation of discrimination (whether unlawful or contrary to chambers’ equality and diversity policy) or of harassment :
a. The complainant should not be treated adversely for making the complaint or grievance.
b. Consideration shall be given to bringing in a person of appropriate qualification and/or experience who is not a member of chambers or staff to assist in investigating and resolving the complaint or grievance.
Complaints from Clients
11. Chambers’ brochure and website shall carry information about this complaints procedure insofar as it related to complaints by clients. Chambers’ standard letter acknowledging receipt of instructions and briefs shall refer clients to this procedure and shall request professional clients to inform their lay clients that:
a. copy of the procedure will be made available to them on request;
b. they can complain directly to chambers without going through solicitors; and
c. direct complaints should be made to the senior clerk in writing at Coram Chambers, 9-11 Fulwood Place, London WC1V 6HG, by telephone on 020 7092 3700 or by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
12. The corrective action request procedure set out at paragraph 7 above shall apply to all complaints by clients.
13. In conformity with the Bar Standards Board’s complaints procedure, chambers will entertain no complaint that is made more than six months after the date of the act or omission complained of. Additionally, a complaint about the level of fees must be received within three months of the date of delivery of the relevant fee note. A member of chambers who receives a complaint about her/him should attempt to resolve it informally and by an apology if appropriate. If the complaint is made about another member of chambers, s/he shall refer it to that other member of chambers, who shall then take the same action. If the complaint is about a member of staff, s/he shall refer it to her/his line manager and if it is about a pupil, s/he shall refer it to her/his supervisor for the same action to be taken.
14. A member of staff who receives a complaint about a member of chambers, another member of staff or a pupil shall refer it to her/his line manager for the appropriate action, unless the complaint is about the senior clerk or the administration manager, in which case it shall be referred to the executive board member with responsibility for staff.
15. A pupil who receives a complaint about a member of chambers or staff or about another pupil shall refer it to her/his supervisor for the appropriate action.
16. In all cases, the complaint shall be acknowledged within twenty-four hours of receipt, preferably in writing, and the complainant advised when a full written response will be forthcoming, which shall be no later than twenty-eight days from receipt of the complaint unless circumstances dictate. If they do so dictate, the complainant shall be told of such circumstances at the earliest opportunity and given a revised timescale.
17. At the time of acknowledgement of the complaint, the complainant shall be notified of the option of raising the complaint directly with the Bar Standards Board and informed that any complaint to the Board must be made within six months from the date of the act or omission complained of. Where a complaint is found to have been justified, the letter of response shall provide resolution proposals. The letter shall also indicate how the complainant can pursue the complaint if s/he is not satisfied with the response and shall include details of the Bar Standards Board’s complaints procedure.
18. Where a complainant is unhappy with the outcome of a complaint he or she can require the complaint to be referred to:-
a. The head of chambers, if the complaint concerns the work or conduct of a member of chambers or pupil;
b. The executive board member with responsibility for staff if the complaint concerns the work or conduct of a member of staff, unless that member of staff is the senior clerk or administration manager, in which case it shall be referred to the head of chambers.
19. In either of the above cases, the head of chambers or executive board member with responsibility for staff shall write to the complainant within twenty-four hours of reference of the complaint to her/him confirming her/his involvement and advising when her/his adjudication will be forthcoming, which shall be no later than twenty-eight days from the date of reference unless circumstances dictate. If they do so dictate, the complainant shall be told of such circumstances at the earliest opportunity and given a revised timescale.
20. The head of chambers is entitled to apologise on behalf of chambers if s/he is satisfied that the interest of chambers as a whole so requires, even if the member of chambers or pupil involved does not accept that her/his work or conduct justified the complaint.
21. The outcome of any complaint at Stage Two shall be recorded in a letter to the complainant, which shall provide resolution proposals if the complaint is found to have been justified.
22. When notified of the outcome of Stage Two, the complainant shall be reminded of the option of raising the complaint directly with the Bar Standards Board and informed that any complaint to the Board must be made within six months from the date of the act or omission complained of. Details of the Board’s complaints procedure shall also be provided.
23. From 6 October 2010, the Legal Ombudsman has the 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 if that proves not to be possible. The contact details for the Legal Ombudsman are as follows:
24. If you are not a client of Chambers, or if your complaint is about the professional conduct of one of our barristers rather than about the quality of our service, then it would be more appropriate to address your complaint to the Bar Standards Board (the regulatory body for barristers). The contact details for the Bar Standards Board are as follows:
Bar Standards Board
289-293 High Holborn
London WC1V 7HZ
Tel: 020 7611 1444
Fax: 020 7831 9217
25. This policy is intended to comply with rule 403.5(d) and Annex S of the Bar Standards Board Code of Conduct, and will be operated in accordance with those provisions.