Complaints Policy - Womble Bond Dickinson (UK) LLP
We are committed to providing high quality legal services to all our clients. Dealing effectively with any concerns is part of that service and also helps us to continuously improve our standards. Whilst we sincerely hope you never have cause for complaint if something does go wrong, including in relation to our bill, we need you to tell us as soon as possible.
This Complaints Policy applies to legal services provided by Womble Bond Dickinson (UK) LLP including any concerns about our professional conduct or potential breach of either the Solicitors Regulation Authority professional conduct rules or the Law Society of Scotland professional standards.
If your complaint relates to financial planning, investment advice or any other financial services provided by Womble Bond Dickinson Wealth Limited then please refer to its Complaints Policy. If you are not sure which policy to refer to, please speak to your Relationship Partner or the contact named in your engagement letter.
Our complaints process is overseen by our General Counsel and Complaints Partner, Nicki Shepherd, who is supported by our Risk and Best Practice Team. For matters including Scottish legal advice or one of our Scottish qualified solicitors (a Scottish matter), our Client Relations Manager is Richard Pike.
How do I complain?
Step 1 – The first step is to either write or speak to the person who is dealing with your matter, or your Relationship Partner (whose details will be in your engagement letter).
Step 2 – If you are not satisfied with our response at Step 1, or, if you do not wish to refer your complaint to your Relationship Partner, then you should contact us by email at email@example.com. To help us understand your complaint please tell us what you think we have got wrong and what you hope to achieve as a result of your complaint.
If you are complaining about a bill received from us, there are time limits which apply if you want it to be assessed. Further information is in the section 'complaints about our bills'.
How we will deal with your complaint
We will acknowledge your complaint within two working days. We aim to respond in full within 21 days but if we cannot give you a full response within that time then we will let you know how long it is likely to take.
We will investigate your complaint by conducting an independent review of the matter file and the associated circumstances. We will not charge you for handling your complaint. We record all complaints in our central record.
We will contact you if we require further information and, where appropriate, may suggest a meeting or a telephone call to discuss your complaint.
Sometimes it may be appropriate for our Complaints Partner, or for Scottish Matters our Client Relations Manager, to arrange for another one of our partners, or a member of our General Counsel Team, to consider and respond to your complaint. You will be informed if this is the case.
We will respond to you in writing to set out our findings and, where necessary, details of how we propose to resolve your complaint.
Our overall aim is to resolve all complaints in an eight week period, hopefully to your satisfaction. If the complaint is not resolved within this timeframe, then you may have recourse to the Legal Ombudsman or to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission.
If your complaint relates to a bill for work done on a matter and all or some of that bill has not been paid then we may be entitled to charge interest on the outstanding amount.
Making a complaint to the Legal Ombudsman or to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission
If you are not happy with the outcome of our complaints procedure, you may be able to make a complaint to either the Legal Ombudsman (LeO) or, if it relates to a Scottish matter, to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC). The services offered by these bodies are free of charge and either body will look at your complaint independently.
LeO investigates complaints about service issues with lawyers for members of the public and small businesses, charities, clubs and trusts. LeO expects complaints to be made to them within one year of the date of the act or omission about which you are concerned or within one year of you realising there was a concern. You must also refer your concerns to LeO within six months of our final response to you.
You can contact LeO by telephone 0300 555 0333, by Minicom 0300 555 1777, by post to Legal Ombudsman, PO Box 6806, Wolverhampton, WV1 9WJ, by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or refer to its website legalombudsman.org.uk
For matters including Scottish legal advice or one of our Scottish qualified solicitors you can refer your complaint to the SLCC. The SLCC applies strict time limits to its acceptance of complaints which vary from one to three years depending on either the type of complaint and when you were last provided with a service in connection with the matter you wish to complain about or when the conduct took place. You can find information about the time limits which apply on the SLCC website.
If you would like more information about the SLCC or the time scales that will apply to your complaint please contact them by telephone 0131 201 2130, through the contactScotland-BSL service (at https://contactscotland-bsl.org/), by post to The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, 10-14 Waterloo Place, Edinburgh, EH1 3EG, by email to email@example.com, or refer to its website scottishlegalcomplaints.org.uk.
Complaints about our bills
If your complaint concerns our fees on an English or Welsh matter, you have a right to ask the court for an assessment of the bill under sections 70 – 72 of the Solicitors Act 1974. You should make such an application within one month of receiving the bill you want to have assessed. You will need the court's permission for the bill to be assessed if you make the application more than one month from the date you received it and restrictions apply. Unless there are special circumstances, the court will not usually order an assessment of a bill more than 12 months from the date you received it.
If your complaint concerns our fees on a Scottish matter, you have a right under the Civil Litigation (Expenses and Group Proceedings) (Scotland) Act 2018 to ask for the account to be looked at independently by way of taxation of the account. This process is carried out by an Auditor of the court. If our Terms of Business apply to your matter then you have agreed that the nominated person to make an assessment of our fee is the Auditor of the relevant Scottish court for your matter. We will agree to a taxed fee provided the invoice in dispute is paid by you in full and that you also pay in full any fee charged by the Auditor. Any refund that may be due to you following the taxation will be paid by us within 14 days of the decision by the Auditor. You should be aware that your fee may be increased as well as decreased following taxation.
We may charge interest on overdue bills and can keep your papers and documents if you owe money to us for fees and expenses.
Alternative Dispute Resolution
Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) organisations, such as Pro Mediate UK Limited (www.promediate.co.uk), exist and are competent to deal with complaints about legal services should both you and our firm wish to use such a scheme. However, we have chosen not to adopt an ADR process because the Legal Ombudsman and, for Scottish matters only, the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission already offer a service to resolve complaints. For this reason we do not consider that there is any benefit in seeking to use an alternative organisation.
Reporting concerns about professional conduct
If your complaint relates to concerns about professional conduct and you are not happy with the outcome of our complaints procedure, you can report conduct concerns to either the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) or, if it relates to a Scottish matter, to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC).
Womble Bond Dickinson (UK) LLP is authorised and regulated by the SRA. The SRA can help you, or take action, if a solicitor, a regulated firm or a member of its staff has breached the SRA Principles. You can report concerns about professional conduct to the SRA, information about how to do this is on its website at sra.org.uk/consumers/problems/report-solicitor/. To contact the SRA: call: 0370 606 2555, between 9.00 to 17.00; email: firstname.lastname@example.org; or write to the Solicitors Regulation Authority, The Cube, 199 Wharfside Street, Birmingham B1 1RN.
For matters including Scottish legal advice or one of our Scottish qualified solicitors, complaints relating to professional conduct can be reported to the SLCC. The procedure for making a complaint to the SLCC is explained above.
How to complain if you are not our client
If you are not our client (for example, you are involved in a transaction where we are representing another party) we will only be able to deal with your complaint if you are alleging that we have breached the SRA professional conduct Principles or, for Scottish matters, the Law Society of Scotland professional standards. In any other situation, we will respond to let you know that we cannot deal with your complaint and that we will not be able to correspond further with you.
If you are involved in a matter we are dealing with and have your own legal representation, our professional rules require us to correspond with your representative. If you wish to submit a complaint we recommend that you liaise with your representative to do so.