Complaints Handling Procedure
In this Complaints Handling Procedure, the words “we” “our” and “us” mean gmh Solicitors, a firm with a Recognised Sole Practitioner, namely Mrs Gillian Hawken. The firm is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
gmh Solicitors is committed to providing an excellent service to all our clients at all times. Should you have a complaint, however, about any of the services provided by us to you, then please let us know as soon as possible, by telephone or in writing. We will treat your complaint as confidential although we may discuss it with other solicitors or officials from the Solicitors Regulation Authority as part of their monitoring functions. We will not reveal your name to others unless we appoint an independent person to investigate a complaint or set up mediation. We will aim to deal with your complaint promptly, fairly, courteously and proportionately, in a manner that addresses the issues raised.
The time limits for bringing a complaint are within 6 months of the end of the matter on which you instructed gmh Solicitors, or within 3 months of you becoming aware of the circumstances giving rise to your complaint, whichever is the later.
Complaints made by telephone
If you wish to make a complaint by telephone, we will make a note of the details of your complaint and what you would like done about it. We will endeavour to resolve matters with you on the telephone. If after discussion you are satisfied with the outcome, we will make a note of the outcome and the fact that you are satisfied. You may also wish to record the outcome of the telephone discussion in writing.
Complaints made in writing
If your complaint is not resolved on the telephone, you will be invited to write to us about it within the following 14 days so that it can be investigated formally. If you wish to make a written complaint, please give us the following details:
• Your name, telephone number and address;
• The detail of your complaint, including the dates pertaining to the events complained about; and
• Options you consider appropriate to resolve your complaint.
Procedure for dealing with your complaint
There are a number of ways in which your complaint may be dealt with:
(a) Discussion over the telephone;
(b) Dealt with by correspondence;
(c) Discussion at a meeting between us;
(d) The appointment of an independent person to investigate the complaint.
If we decide to appoint an independent person to investigate the complaint (for example, a member of the Solicitors Sole Practitioners Group or the local Law Society or another solicitor), we both would need to agree who to appoint. An independent person who has considerable experience in the area that is the subject matter of the dispute should be chosen.
Upon receipt of a written complaint we will:
(a) Reply in writing, normally within 48 hours, to acknowledge the complaint and inform you how we shall be dealing with it.
(b) Reply within 14 days responding in full to your complaint. We will offer you the opportunity to meet with you if that is appropriate. If we find later that we are not going to be able to reply within 14 days we will set a new date for my reply and inform you. Our reply will set out:
• The nature and scope of our investigation;
• Our conclusion on each complaint and the basis for our conclusion; and
• If we find that you are justified in your complaint, our proposals for resolving the complaint.
All conversations and documents relating to the complaint will be treated as confidential and will be disclosed only to the extent that is necessary.
Complaints to the Legal Ombudsman
If you are not happy with our final written response and you fall within their jurisdiction, you may make a formal complaint to the Legal Ombudsman, the independent complaints handling body for complaints about lawyers, to ask it to consider the complaint further.
Unless it agrees that there are good reasons not to do so, the Legal Ombudsman will expect you to allow gmh Solicitors to consider and to respond to your complaint in accordance with the procedure set out above in the first instance.
You can refer your complaint up to 6 months after you have received our final written response to your complaint. You can also use the Ombudsman service if we have not resolved your complaint within 8 weeks of our receiving it. A complaint can be referred to the Legal Ombudsman up to 6 years from the date of the act or omission or up to 3 years after discovering a problem.
You can write to the Legal Ombudsman at:
Legal Ombudsman PO Box 6806, Wolverhampton WV1 9WJ
Telephone number: 0300 555 0333
More information about the Legal Ombudsman is available on their website: http://www.legalombudsman.org.uk
Complaints to the Solicitors Regulation Authority
The Ombudsman will also only deal with service-related complaints. This means that only complaints from the solicitor’s clients are within their jurisdiction. If you are not our client and are unhappy with the outcome of gmh Solicitors’ investigation, then please contact the Solicitors Regulation Authority. You will find more information about how to make a complaint on the Solicitors Regulation Authority website at http://www.sra.org.uk
It should be noted that it may not always be possible to investigate a complaint brought by a non-client. This is because our ability to satisfactorily investigate and resolve such matters is limited and complaints of this nature are often better suited to the disciplinary processes maintained by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. Therefore, we will make an initial assessment of the complaint and if we feel that the issues raised cannot be satisfactorily resolved through my complaints process we will refer you to the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
If you are unhappy with our final written response, alternative complaints bodies (such as ProMediate: http://www.promediate.co.uk ) also exist which are competent to deal with complaints about legal services, should we both wish to use such a scheme. If you wish to use ProMediate please contact us to discuss this.
We will maintain confidentiality at all times and discuss your complaint only to the extent that is necessary for its resolution and to comply with requests for information from the Solicitors Regulation Authority discharging its monitoring functions. If we have to change any of the timescales above, we will let you know and explain why.
We will retain all correspondence and other documents generated in the course of your complaint for a period of six years and we will review complaints at least once a year to ensure that we maintain good standards of service.