Ministry of Justice
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Legal Services Ombudsman Annual Report1 July 2008

Legal Services Ombudsman Annual Report1 July 2008

MINISTRY OF JUSTICE News Release (072/08) issued by The Government News Network on 1 July 2008

Published on behalf of the Office of the Legal Services Ombudsman

Legal Services Ombudsman Annual Report - 1 July 2008

The Legal Services Ombudsman for England and Wales, Zahida Manzoor CBE, in her Annual Report and Accounts, has welcomed the Legal Services Act (2007). When brought into force, the Legal Services Act will create two new bodies, the Legal Services Board (LSB) and the Office for Legal Complaints (OLC).

The OLC will take over the handling of consumer complaints from the legal professional bodies. It is a testament to the work of the Ombudsman's Office that the OLC will be an ombudsman scheme. The Ombudsman commented:

"I look forward to the LSB and OLC becoming the guardians of fairness, transparency and impartiality for both the consumer and legal practitioner".

The Ombudsman reported that in 2007/2008 her Office had again performed to a high standard. The Ombudsman's Office exceeded the Government's target of investigating 90% of cases referred to it within 6 months. In fact 91% of its investigations took 4 months to complete and 100% of its investigations were concluded within 6 months.

In 2007/2008 complaints about the Law Society's complaint-handling bodies, the Legal Complaints Service (LCS) and the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), made up 91% of the Ombudsman's workload. The Ombudsman was satisfied with the handling of 68% of the LCS's investigations that consumers referred to her. The Ombudsman was critical of the overall performance of the LCS, and in particular poor decision-making in individual cases.

However, she was pleased to note that LCS has continued to reduce the time they take to deal with the complaints they receive. The Ombudsman was satisfied with the handling of 80% of the SRA's investigations and 80% of the Bar Standards Board investigations that consumers referred to her. The Ombudsman also investigated a small number of complaints regarding the Council for Licensed Conveyancers.

It is envisaged that the OLC will be fully operational in 2010/2011. The Ombudsman will continue to work closely with all stakeholders to ensure a seamless transition from the current to the new ombudsman scheme.

Notes to Editors:

1. The Office of the Legal Services Ombudsman completed 1,864 investigations into complaints between 1 April 2007 and 31 March 2008 and 1,803 new cases were accepted for investigation during that time. The average turnaround time for investigation of complaints by the Ombudsman, from receipt of the professional body's file, was 2.9 months.

2. The Legal Services Ombudsman for England and Wales is independent of both the Government and legal profession. The Ombudsman provides an independent check on the complaint-handling activities of the Law Society (the LCS and SRA), the General Council of the Bar (the Bar Standards Board), the Institute of Legal Executives, the Council for Licensed Conveyancers, the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys and the Institute of Trademark Attorneys. The Ombudsman is Ms Zahida Manzoor CBE.

3. Copies of the Annual Report and Accounts of the Legal Services Ombudsman for England and Wales can be found at http://www.olso.org

http://www.justice.gov.uk

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