- Every complaint received into Chambers is dealt with promptly, fairly, openly and effectively. Complaints are monitored and reported annually to the Management Committee. Any trends are identified and possible training issues are highlighted. Our policy is reviewed regularly and published on the website.
Our Complaints policy
- New Park Court Chambers aims to provide an excellent service at all times and to consistently exceed the expectations of our clients. However, in the event that we receive a complaint, we would like to make it as straightforward as possible for the complainant to contact us and endeavour to investigate and put things right as quickly as possible. It is not necessary to involve solicitors in order to make a complaint but you are free to do so should you wish.
Our policy is designed to ensure that:
- Our solicitors, lay clients and persons formally appointed by lay clients to represent their interests, have a clear procedure that enables them to make a complaint or raise a concern;
- All complaints are dealt with quickly and effectively;
- Our solicitors, lay clients and persons formally appointed by lay clients to represent their interests, should feel that their complaint has been handled properly;
- Where concerns and complaints highlight problems with our service, these are properly addressed;
- Complaints are regularly monitored to assess whether the nature of the complaints changes over time as problems are identified and addressed and clients’ needs change.
If you have any special requirements or need any assistance please let us know.
- Everyone in Chambers has a responsibility for ensuring that complaints do not arise through their actions or lack of action. If a complaint is received then whoever receives it has a responsibility to treat it seriously and in accordance with the Chambers Complaints Procedure, where applicable. Where the recipient of a complaint or expression of dissatisfaction is unclear whether the Chambers Complaints Procedure applies, he or she should consult the Chambers Director.
- An informal complaint is an expression of dissatisfaction with some aspect of our service without the client stating that he or she wishes to make a formal complaint. They tend to arise through the normal course of business where a client mentions as an aside a matter which has caused irritation or concern.
- Informal complaints are important in identifying low level dissatisfaction with the service provided by Chambers. Low level dissatisfaction which is not addressed creates the conditions for professional clients to move their instructions. All members of Chambers and staff should act promptly and proactively in relation to informal complaints concerning their areas of responsibility where they come to their attention. If the matter does become the subject of a formal complaint and/or has wider implications beyond the particular incident, it should be drawn to the attention of the Chambers Director, who will address it as he or she sees fit in the circumstances.
Informal complaints are recorded and monitored.
- Formal complaints raised in writing, by email, in person or over the phone should be referred to the Chambers Director. This includes professional complaints received by barristers.
If the complaint is about the Chambers Director it will be referred to the Head of Chambers.
Complaints Made by Telephone
- You may wish to make a complaint in writing and, if so, please follow the procedure in the paragraph below. However, if you would rather speak on the telephone about your complaint then please telephone Mr Tim Coulson (Chambers Director) on 0113 2433277. If the complaint is about the Chambers Director, please telephone the Head of Chambers, Mr Robert Smith QC. The person you contact will make a note of the details of your complaint and what you would like to have done about it. He will discuss your concerns with you and aim to resolve them. If the matter is resolved he will record the outcome, check that you are satisfied with the outcome and record that you are satisfied. You may also wish to record the outcome of the telephone discussion in writing.
If your complaint is not resolved on the telephone you will be invited to write to us about it so it can be investigated formally.
Complaints made in Writing
- Please give the following details:
- Your name and address;
- Which member(s) of Chambers you are complaining about;
- The detail of the complaint; and
- What you would like to be done about it.
Please address your letter to Mr Tim Coulson, Chambers Director, New Park Court Chambers, 16 Park Place, Leeds, LS1 2SJ. We will, where possible, acknowledge receipt of your complaint within two days and provide you with details of how your complaint will be dealt with.
- The person who is the subject of the complaint will be informed immediately and provided with details of the complaint. They will be asked for initial comments to establish whether the complainant is justified in making a complaint. If the matter is disputed then the person concerned will be informed that:
- the complaint will be/has been acknowledged;
- further details of the complaint may be provided;
- an investigation will take place involving the Chambers Director;
- if the Chambers Director is unavailable, the Chambers Manager will initiate the investigation and communication with the complainant.
- The Chambers Director will contact the complainant within two days to:
- acknowledge the complaint;
- find out what remedy the complainant is seeking;
- obtain any further details;
- inform the complainant of the procedure;
- inform the complainant of who will be involved;
- seek to resolve the problem as quickly as possible;
- If we can resolve the matter following an initial investigation and full consultation with the person who is the subject of the complaint, the Chambers Director will contact the complainant to let him/her know what we are proposing to do.
- If the complaint is serious and/or the matter has not been resolved, a complaint against a barrister will be managed by the Chambers Director.
- Within 14 days of receiving a complaint the Chambers Director will inform the complainant:
- who else is assisting with the investigation;
- that s/he will reply to the complainant within 14 days or that s/he will arrange an alternative date for getting back to the complainant;
- the nature and scope of his/her investigation.
The complainant will be offered the opportunity to provide further information
- The investigation will include a meeting with the person(s) about whom the complaint has been made or, if the person is unable to attend a meeting within a reasonable period, a written account of what took place which may be followed up with a meeting or telephone call.
- Any witnesses or persons with related information will be interviewed by the investigator and/or written accounts of what happened will be requested.
- If there is the possibility that the complaint may result in a claim against a barrister, then the insurers (Bar Mutual Indemnity Fund Limited) must be informed as soon as possible.
- The investigator will prepare a concise written report as soon as possible. The investigator may discuss the report’s conclusions with the Head of Chambers and/or the Team Leaders if appropriate.
- The investigator will discuss the report’s conclusion with the person(s) about whom the complaint has been made prior to responding to the complainant.
- If the investigator upholds the complaint s/he will recommend a line of action to resolve the matter with a view to preventing any reoccurrence. This could include:
- An apology from the individual(s) and/or from Chambers
- Further training or supervision
- A gesture of apology
- Rehabilitation / support
- Disciplinary action
- Compensation from the individual or from Chambers
- Report to the police disciplinary action may be taken against a member of staff (in line with the staff disciplinary policy)
- If the investigator recommends a line of action which is not agreed by the pupil(s) or barrister(s) about whom the complaint has been made the matter will be referred to a special meeting of the board Unless there is an appeal (see below) the decision of the board will be final.
- In all cases the person(s) about whom the complaint has been made may appeal the decision of the investigator and/or the recommended line of action.
- Provision for an appeal for staff is made in the staff disciplinary procedure.
- For pupils and barristers an appeal may be made in writing within 7 working days to the Head of Chambers who will convene a two or three person appeal panel of senior members of chambers who have had no previous involvement in the complaint.
- The appeal panel will hear from the investigator and from the person(s) about whom the complaint has been made.
- The decision of the appeal panel is final except in circumstances which may lead to a member being expelled from Chambers. In these circumstances the decision of the appeal panel will be treated as a report of a disciplinary panel and referred to an EGM in accordance with the Constitution.
Contacting the Complainant
- The investigator will contact the complainant to let her/him know the outcome of the investigation.
- All conversations and documents relating to the complaint will be treated as confidential and will be disclosed only to the extent that is necessary. Disclosure will be to the head of Chambers, members of our management committee and to anyone involved in the complaint and its investigation. Such people will include the barrister member or staff who you have complained about, the head or relevant senior member of the panel and the person who investigates the complaint. The Bar Standards Board is entitled to inspect the documents and seek information about the complaint when discharging its auditing and monitoring functions.
- As part of our commitment to client care we make a written record of any complaint and retain all documents and correspondence generated by the complaint for a period of six years. Our management committee inspects an anonymised record regularly with a view to improving services.
Complaints to the Legal Ombudsman
- If you are unhappy with the outcome of our investigation and you fall within their jurisdiction you may take up your complaint with the Legal Ombudsman, the independent complaints body for complaints about lawyers, at the conclusion of our consideration of your complaint. The Ombudsman is not able to consider your complaint until it has first been investigated by Chambers. Please note the timeframe for referral of complaints to the Ombudsman is as follows:
- Six years from the date of the act/omission.
- Three years from the date that the complainant should reasonably have known there were grounds for complaint (if the act/omission took place before the 6 October 2010 or was more than six years ago).
- Within six months of the complaint receiving a final response from their lawyer, if that response complies with the requirements in rule 4.4 of the Scheme Rules (which requires the response to include prominently an explanation that the Legal Ombudsman was available if the complainant remained dissatisfied and the provision of full contact details for the Ombudsman and a warning that the complaint must be referred to them within six months.
- The Ombudsman can extend the time limit in exceptional circumstances. Chambers must therefore have regard to that timeframe when deciding whether they are able to investigate your complaint. Chambers will not therefore usually deal with complaints that fall outside of the Legal Ombudsman’s time limits.
- The Ombudsman will also only deal with complaints from consumers. This means that only complaints from the barrister’s client are within their jurisdiction. Non-clients who are not satisfied with the outcome of the Chambers’ investigation should contact the Bar Standards Board rather than the Legal Ombudsman.
- It should be noted that it may not always be possible to investigate a complaint brought by a non-client. This is because the ability of Chambers 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 Bar Standards Board. Therefore, Chambers will make an initial assessment of the complaint and if they feel that the issues raised cannot be satisfactorily resolved through the Chambers complaints process they will refer you to the Bar Standards Board.
You can write to them at:
PO Box 6806
Telephone number: 0300 555 0333
If you are not the barrister’s client and are unhappy with the outcome of our investigation then please contact the Bar Standards Board at:
Bar Standards Board
Professional Conduct Department
289-293 High Holborn
Telephone number: 0207 6111 444