SRA and LeO to examine how well firms handle complaints

The Solicitors Regulation Authority is turning its attention to how law firms handle complaints, commissioning its first piece of research on how firms’ processes can influence the quality of service clients receive.

The regulator announced today that the £50,000 study, jointly funded with the Legal Ombudsman, will examine if there are any issues to consider about the effectiveness of firms’ complaints processes.

The regulator said it wants to understand firms’ approaches to dealing with complaints and understand any barriers they face to handling complaints well.

Examples of good and poor practice will be highlighted. The regulator also wants to ’gain a consumer perspective’ on firms’ complaints handling.

Last year oversight regulator the Legal Services Board published updated complaints guidance for regulators.

The board, in a decision document published in July, said a review in 2015/16 suggested complaints-handling processes were not achieving the desired outcomes. ’While data shows improvements in complaints handling with some [approved regulators], other data shows that the number of “silent sufferers” remains high – those that know how to complain, but are unwilling, due to a lack of confidence that the profession will resolve their complaints,’ the board added.

The SRA’s latest research is part of its 2016/17 research programme.

According to an SRA board paper published in December, previous research exploring consumer experiences of using asylum and family legal services found that some consumers ’lacked awareness of the availability of redress and that there is a misconception that pursuing redress will have an adverse impact on the outcome of their case’.

Research companies London Economics and YouGov have been commissioned to conduct the latest research, which will involve speaking to firms and members of the public.

The research has been budgeted to cost between £50,000 and £55,000, including VAT.