The fact that we did manage to get all our services running normally so swiftly has meant that this year we could focus on the longer-term future, including learning from the experience of enforced full remote working. Our Board and executive formed a joint working party that used an agile approach to rapidly review our strategy and options around people, technology, property, and changing customer need and expectation. You can read more about this work later in the report.
While the Chair has discussed performance, I would like to highlight examples of the work behind the scenes that show the depth and breadth of our efforts to improve our service:
- Through our ‘Delivering Clarity’ project, we deployed training on accessible English to all staff, and reviewed all standard template letters and emails for accessible English.
- We continued an extensive programme of improvement, with 17 ‘sprints’ (rapid test and deploy cycles of improvement) running within the operational year. There is more information on these later in this report.
- We used a service design approach to improve how we respond to customers when a complaint is ‘premature’ (when it has not yet been made to the law firm) using customer feedback and testing to refine our process.
- We changed our approach to customer service feedback, allowing a more detailed assessment of the user (lawyer and complainer) experience at each stage of our process.
- We learned from consumer groups about the specific needs of their service users (including older people, and women who have experienced domestic abuse) to inform our accessibility and customer service.
- We have reviewed the use of AI by other complaints bodies and by law firms to assess opportunities for the SLCC to improve its work (either our own processes, or to identify where AI use by firms may be an issue within complaints).
As well as our role as the gateway for all complaints and in dealing with service complaints, the SLCC also has statutory ‘oversight’ duties. We can accept complaints about how the relevant professional bodies have dealt with conduct complaints, audit conduct related work and oversee professional indemnity arrangements. In addition, we have duties to set out guidance on complaint handling in law firms, to look at consumer experience of the legal services market, and to report on complaint trends. These powers have been evolving, with the Scottish Parliament adding to these areas of our work in 2010, 2014, and 2018.
This year saw a number of positive developments in this area. This includes our first overarching statement on how we will use our oversight to improve the regulatory landscape. We have also completed significant work relating to the Master Policy indemnity arrangements. This secured payments for a number of complainers who had not yet received the redress they had been awarded, and recommended changes that we hope will improve indemnity arrangements for the future. You can read more detail on this work later in the report.
I hope these examples, and the remainder of the report, give an idea of how the staff team seeks to deliver our mission to resolve complaints, prevent the common causes of complaints, and enable quality improvement.