The NLS Scheme is an informal conciliation process designed to provide mutual satisfaction for solicitors and their clients locally and more quickly than the delays inevitably involved in complaining via the independent national Office of the Legal Ombudsman (LeO). LeO is the independent complaints handling arm of The Law Society. As such, NLS has no power to impose sanctions, and cannot deal with complaints that have already been referred to LeO, unless LeO requests it to do so.
Complainants to NLS (whether directly or via a third party such as their local MP or councillor) against a solicitor practising in Northamptonshire will initially be informed of the SRA Code of Conduct 2011 Complaints Handling Procedures, and referred back to the law firm concerned, unless that procedure has already been exhausted.
Where complainants have exhausted the individual law firm's complaints process and the complaint involves a firm within the NLS area, the complainant will be asked to supply details to NLS. As it is an informal procedure, there are no special forms, but putting details in writing to NLS is found to be helpful. Complainants will be advised that NLS is not the regulatory body, but is an independent body using conciliation procedures to assist complainants.
NLS will pass these details to a NLS Complaints Handler; Complaints Handlers are current NLS officers, and other volunteer Past Presidents and members. Checks will be made for conflicts of interest so that complainants know that the Complaints Handler has no interest in the outcome.
The Complaints Handler will contact the complainant and the law firm concerned to determine what further information, if any, is required and whether the complaint is capable of resolution by NLS conciliation procedures. If the complaint is not suitable for NLS conciliation, the complainant will be advised to refer it to the LeO about solicitors.
If it is suitable for NLS conciliation, the Complaints Handler:
will at the earliest opportunity and, in any event, within 7 days contact the Senior Partner of the firm advising him that a complaint has been received, and discuss what steps the firm intend to take, and to resolve the matter
when appropriate, will offer to conciliate between the firm and the complainant
will take whatever steps that he or she feels reasonably appropriate to help resolve the matter
will have discretion at any time to advise the complainant to refer the matter to LeO
The NLS Administrator will monitor the progress of each complaint with the relevant Complaints Handler at month end, and at the middle of the following month.
If a complaint has not been resolved after 8 weeks since the since the relevant NLS Complaints Handler received notice of the complaint, the complainant will be reminded of his or her entitlement to refer the matter to LeO.
In order to refer a complaint to the NLS, please contact:
Mrs Carolyn Coles
Northamptonshire Law Society
Tel. 01604 881154
Legal Ombudsman Service (LeO)
If NLS conciliation is not able to resolve the matter, complainants in England and Wales should contact LeO.
LeO provides an independent, impartial and free service to consumers who have not been able to resolve a complaint via their solicitor’s own internal complaints procedure. Further details of LeO's services can be found at www.legalombudsman.org.uk can be contacted at:
The Legal Ombudsman Service
PO Box 6806
(office hours 8:30am to 5:30pm)
Tel: 0300 555 0333 or +44 121 245 3050
Minicom: 0300 555 1777