Most law firms are failing in their duty to tell their clients about their right to complain to the Legal Ombudsman new research has found. Only two out of ten people who complained to the Ombudsman were told about the service by their lawyer.

The Ombudsman has also said that seven out of ten firms are failing to clearly signpost their complaints procedures to clients.  It is worried that a lack of signposting has contributed to a general reduction in awareness of the Ombudsman scheme.

Many people could be losing their chance to put things right after receiving poor service, simply because they don’t know where to go,” said Kathryn Stone OBE, Chief Ombudsman. “Legal regulations are quite clear that lawyers should be telling clients about how to complain if they are unhappy, and that they can bring a complaint to the Legal Ombudsman if they’re dissatisfied with their lawyer’s handling of a complaint.”

The Legal Services Act puts an obligation on law firms to inform clients about their right to complain.  The Ombudsman has published a Signposting Pack to help lawyers to “learn from complaints to improve your customer service and subsequent business prospects.”

James Page, Director – Head of Client Servicing, Brunel Professional Risks, says: “Lawyers should tell their clients about their right to complain to the Ombudsman in their initial client care letter.  They should also signpost the scheme to their clients if they receive a complaint.  It makes good commercial sense to have an effective complaints procedure in place.  Dealing with a problem quickly can often settle a complaint amicably before it escalates into a negligence claim.”

Details of the research have been published by the Legal Ombudsman and reported by Legal Futures and The Law Society Gazette.