Advice and Information
The SLCC may issue general "Advice and Information" regarding complaint handling. This is subdivided into two areas:
A. Dealing with complaints yourself and complaint avoidance; and
B. Dealing with complaints made to the SLCC.
We hope this advice and information will be of assistance to practitioners when dealing with complaints and taking steps to avoid situations which could result in complaints being made.
"Advice and Information" issued by the SLCC:
A. Dealing with complaints yourself and complaint avoidance
Third party complaints
The SLCC receives complaints about practitioners who have not acted for the complainer. We refer to this type of complaint as a third party complaint. We have published guidance to advise potential complainers about what can be investigated and the potential constraints on any such investigation. For further information please see the following link for Guidance for Potential Complainers.
Complaints about the content of letters: The SLCC has received a number of third party complaints about the content of letters received from practitioners. We advise complainers that practitioners are entitled to accept what their clients have told them at face value unless they know the information to be false. We also advise complainers that a practitioner is entitled to write to third party outlining what their client's position or understanding of a situation is.
However, in order to try to avoid such a complaint being made if you are writing to a third party, we suggest you may wish to make it clear that you are writing on behalf of your client and that it is your client's position you are conveying, rather than your own. For example, you may wish to use terms such as 'my client advises me that…' 'my client's position is that….'.
Should you provide information / your file to the SLCC: If you are unsure about whether you can provide information and / or your file to the SLCC when requested to do so, you should seek advice from the Law Society of Scotland. Advice is also available on their website www.lawscot.org.uk
We are looking at issuing advice and information on further subjects soon.
B. Dealing with complaints made to the SLCC.
Determinations and levies
Assessing the Complaints Levy - When assessing the amount of the Complaints Levy to impose in circumstances where a complaint is upheld, the SLCC may take into account (a) the action taken by the practitioner at the time the complaint was originally made and any subsequent action taken, (b) any attempt to respond to / resolve the complaint, (c) offers of settlement, and (d) how the complaint has been managed during the course of the SLCC’s investigation.
Providing evidence to confirm compliance - In order to ensure full compliance with Section 16 of the Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007, practitioners should ensure that the SLCC is provided with a thorough explanation of the action which he / she has taken to implement a Section 10(2) decision and provide written evidence, wherever possible, e.g. a copy of the letter paying compensation, an amended fee note and confirmation of fee refund.
Failing to comply with determinations - Where practitioners have failed / delayed to comply (in full or part) with Section 16 within the timescales specified by the SLCC, the SLCC will report the failure / delay to the RPO and may proceed to seek enforcement of the decision. No reminders will be issued to the practitioners where timescales have not been met. The RPO may decide to raise a conduct complaint against the individual who has failed to comply.
Failing to comply with the Complaints Levy -Where practitioners have failed / delayed to pay the Complaints Levy within the timescales specified by the SLCC, the SLCC will report the failure / delay to the RPO as potential unsatisfactory professional conduct or professional misconduct, and may proceed to raise court proceedings for recovery of the sums due. No reminders will be issued to the practitioners where specified timescales have not been met. The RPO may decide to raise a conduct complaint against the individual who has failed to pay.
Meeting the SLCC's expectations
All practitioners, not just Client Relations Managers, should ensure that they are aware of the guidance and advice and information issued by both the SLCC and the relevant professional organisation when dealing with all expressions of dissatisfaction.
Client Relations Managers are expected to ensure that all practitioners within the firm are made aware of the SLCC's Best Practice Notes and any Advice and Information. Where appropriate, steps should be taken to update the existing written complaints handling procedures and necessary changes made to complaint handling processes.