VIRGO SOLICITORS LIMITED – INTERNAL COMPLAINTS HANDLING POLICY

INTRODUCTION

We are committed to providing a high quality legal service and to dealing with all our clients fairly. We acknowledge that we may not always get it right so if something has gone wrong, including in relation to the bill, we ask that clients tell us.

This policy describes how we handle complaints and ensure we comply with our regulatory obligations.

Fundamentally, it is vital that we handle complaints promptly, fairly, openly and effectively.

WHAT IS A COMPLAINT?
A complaint is an oral or written expression of dissatisfaction which alleges that the complainant has suffered (or may suffer) financial loss, distress, inconvenience or other detriment.

Our client-facing complaints policy asks that clients contact us in writing by letter or speak with the COLP who is Abess Taqi (AT).

If you receive a complaint directly you must pass it to the COLP promptly and without delay.

If the COLP is involved in the matter to which the complaint relates, they will nominate a different person to deal with that complaint.

OUR PROCEDURE
Our complaints handling procedure consists of five stages:

information to clients
recording complaints
acknowledging complaints
preliminary assessment
taking action

INFORMATION TO CLIENTS
You must inform clients in writing at the outset of the matter of:

their right to complain (including about a bill)
how complaints can be made
their right to complain to the Legal Ombudsmen (LeO), the time frame for doing so and full details of how to contact the LeO
the circumstances in which they may be liable to pay interest on an unpaid bill

Our client care letter and Terms of Business cover(s) this.

RECORDING COMPLAINTS
The COLP will record complaints as they are received, capturing the following information:

contact details of the complainant
a summary of the complaint
specific issues complained about
requested remedy (if any)
agreed date for a response
who has responsibility for dealing with the complaint

Throughout the process of the complaint they will also document:

any investigative steps taken
minutes of any meetings internally and/or with the complainant
references to any documents relied on for resolving the complaint (eg letters, attendance notes, etc)

They will maintain a central register of complaints (see Appendix C), which will enable the business to monitor complaints. This will also help us to identify any trends or training needs.

They will consider whether a complaint involves matters that need to be notified externally, eg to our professional indemnity insurers if the complaint involves negligence.

ACKNOWLEDGING COMPLAINTS
We will acknowledge complaints in writing to the complainant within five working days, enclosing a copy of our Client-facing complaints policy.

Our acknowledgement letter will contain:

a statement of our understanding of the complaint
if appropriate, a request for further information that we need in order to consider the complaint, and a time frame for providing that information
contact details of the person who is dealing with the complaint
contact details of the person who is dealing with the complaint
information on when we will next be in contact with the complainant

PRELIMINARY ASSESSMENT
We will consider each complaint objectively.

This stage involves three steps:

step 1—clearly itemising the issues in order to understand the complaint fully
step 2—considering the complexity and seriousness of the complaint
step 3— identifying any remedies sought by the complainant and considering the range of remedies available

TAKING ACTION
Any action will depend on the conclusions drawn from the preliminary assessment.

Generally we will:

investigate the complaint
obtain feedback from relevant people
provide a response to the complainant

The level and extent of our investigations will be proportionate to the seriousness of the complaint. Unless there are exceptional circumstances, we will review the relevant matter file as a first step.

Both clients and staff members involved in the complaint will be given the opportunity to provide their account of the situation and respond to points raised. The seriousness of the complaint will dictate whether and to what extent we will seek to verify responses from both sides.

We will respond to the complainant promptly with any decision or proposed action. We will aim to do this within 20 days of the date of our letter of acknowledgement.

Our response will:

re-state the details of the complaint
outline the investigations undertaken
state our findings resulting from the investigations
offer a remedy (see Remedies below) or explain why we do not think it is appropriate to do so
explain how to accept the proposed remedy
inform the client of their right to complain to the LeO if they remain unsatisfied, the time frame for doing so and full details of how to contact the LeO

The complainant’s decision will be recorded.

TIMESCALES
We will write to the complainant within three working days acknowledging the complaint, and enclosing a copy of our client-facing complaints policy.

We will then write to the complainant at the end of our investigation to tell them what we have done and what we propose to do to resolve their complaint. We will aim to do this within 20 days of the date of our letter of acknowledgement.

We have eight weeks to resolve a complaint, after which the complainant may refer their complaint to the LeO for resolution.

In some cases the LeO may ask us why the complaint was not dealt with more quickly if there is a reason why this would have been desirable.

REMEDIES
Various options are available to us depending on the seriousness of the complaint.

We may:

resolve the specific problem where possible
offer compensation for specific losses or general inconvenience
offer to reduce the bill
offer an apology

We will consider any remedies that the complainant has requested while managing their expectations.

COST OF COMPLAINTS
We will not charge a complainant for handling their complaint.

COMMUNICATION
Good communication with the complainant is key.

We will:

use plain English
present information clearly
be alert to communication challenges, eg hearing difficulties or language barriers
keep our client updated on progress

CONFIDENTIALITY
As with all client matters you must treat complaints, and any information received during the course of dealing with complaints, with utmost confidentiality.

VULNERABLE CLIENTS POLICY AND CLIENT CARE PROCEDURES FOR OLDER CLIENTS AND CLIENTS WITH MENTAL HEALTH OR INCAPCITY ISSUES
Our complaints handling procedure is sensitive to individual differences and needs of our clients.

You must inform the COLP of any communication challenges, eg hearing difficulties or language barriers, of which you are aware.

We may remind vulnerable clients more often of our complaints handling procedure.

COMPLAINTS ABOUT THE BILL
We will treat a complaint about our bill in the same way as any other complaint.

MONITORING COMPLIANCE WITH THIS POLICY
The COLP/Director is responsible for this policy.

All staff must be aware of and adhere to the policy. All staff will receive training on the requirements of the policy.

Compliance will be monitored through our regular file audit process and annual review of complaints.

You may be liable to disciplinary action if you fail to comply with the provisions of this policy.

REPORTING BREACHES
If you notice a breach with this policy you must inform the COLP. See our separate Compliance failure policy.

REVIEWING THIS POLICY
We will review this policy regularly—at least annually.

We will provide information and/or training on any changes we make.