Case management and complaints: SRA Code and the Legal Ombudsman

November 18, 2019

Whether a firm is for or against the Legal Ombudsman’s recently launched “Data and decisions” complaints list, they will want to avoid being on it - especially if they are serious about adhering to the outcomes in the SRA’s Code of Conduct 2011. It has long been reported that many complaints against law firms largely relate to failures in processes, rather than to the legal advice given. In the new legal era, robust case management technology can help on three levels:

1.    At a fundamental level, case management workflows that underpin legal processes can help ensure clients experience a consistently high quality legal service and so reducing the likelihood of complaints in the first place. Thus relating to outcome O(1.4): “You have the resources, skills and procedures to carry out your clients instructions.”

2.    Firms can also revisit and widen their use of case management to be more pro-active towards recording client satisfaction, and so helping to indentify and rectify potential complaints. For example, as every matter is completed, a survey can be automatically despatched to the client and certain staff tasked to review and act on feedback. Also, at the outset of the matter, the file opening process can trigger an engagement letter that includes details of the complaints process, so adhering to outcome O(1.9) of the code.

3.    Resourcefully efficient firms can also use case management workflow to run their actual complaints process. Each complaint can be set up as a matter with appropriate workflows scripted to inform the client about the Legal Ombudsman’s procedure, enabling the complaint to be tracked internally and ensuring the client is kept informed. Thus helping to adhere to outcomes 1.10 and 1.11 relating to complaints, and also demonstrating indicative behaviours relating to Complaints Handling IB (1.22-24).

As firms adapt to the new legal era, innovative firms realise that good case management systems are not just for workflows around the legal matters themselves. Progressive firms are revisiting their use of workflows to underpin wider business processes across their entire firm, which can include complaints handling and pro-actively monitoring client satisfaction – which in turn will help prevent complaints, reduce the potential of being on the LeO list and adhere to outcomes-focused regulations.

David McNamara, Managing Director, SOS

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