In many cases it is seeing the results from early investigative work and our sharing of an ‘initial view’ on the complaint which helps parties find a middle ground. On other occasions we operate back and forth between the parties to negotiate an agreed outcome. Only a third of the service complaints we dealt with this year required a formal final decision from a Determination Committee. That means in the vast majority of cases we helped parties find a resolution that worked for them, saving time and stress for everyone, as well as providing a more efficient and satisfactory service.
We know that being complained about can be difficult and can lead firms to act defensively when faced with a complaint. Our aim is to find a way to resolve complaints, wherever possible. This year we developed communications about the things firms could do when a complaint is made against them to help to resolve it as soon as possible.
As part of our ‘Delivering Clarity’ workstream, we ensured that all of our communications with firms include clear information on how complaints can be resolved, and how we can help with that. Our Spring 2021 issue of Snapshot, our e-newsletter for law firms, focused on dispelling some myths about early resolution, and featured a case study of a complaint successfully resolved during our investigation.
We will continue this focus into the current year, and we hope to see more firms entering into early discussions about resolution. We know this reduces the time and stress for all parties, reduces cost and often leads to more satisfactory agreed outcomes.
Mediation continues to be a key tool for us in helping parties to resolve complaints consensually. Throughout this year, we have continued to offer mediation for appropriate complaints, although these have all been via telephone or video call rather than in person. However, we have continued to see the same high success rates that have become a feature of this service.
Boosting the uptake of mediation continues to be a key focus for us because we believe we could successfully resolve more complaints at an earlier stage if parties could be encouraged to take part. Our data shows that in cases where mediation didn’t go ahead, it was more often the complainer than the firm that declined to take part, so we are considering what information and support might help reassure complainers about the benefits of mediation, and the private, independent and flexible mediation process we offer.