A recent research has found that consumers from the legal services are inclined to make complaints to the Legal Ombudsman instead of turning to law firms. The researched has showed that the main reason why legal services customers turn to the Legal Ombudsman and not to law firms is due to the fact that consumers feel intimidated by the jargon. The recently published survey included more than 1,000 people. Those people have expressed their concerns and complaints to the ombudsman. The survey thus revealed that there are significant obstacles between legal services consumers and legal services providers. The main communication barriers are as a result of the language and legal jargon used in the correspondence between the two parties. The research has revealed that some defensive responses from legal firms for example could be read as ‘confrontational and threatening’. Consumers found it too hard to understand the language and felt that it was too intimidating. The miscommunication between the consumers and legal parties usually resulted in leaving customers angry. That is why; they would then turn to the Legal Ombudsman for clarification and support.
The research also revealed that consumers’ complaints have resulted in a direct contact with the ombudsman. Many of those clients have complained to the Legal Ombudsman without giving the legal party a chance to resolve the complaint of the consumer. These types of complaints have been referred to as a ‘premature complaint’ by the Legal Ombudsman. About 63% of the legal services consumers have reported that they contacted the ombudsman directly because they feared that otherwise their complaints will not be either taken serious or resolved fairly quickly.
However, the survey also revealed that despite original disputes, dealing with complaints in a successful manner was in reality more likely to be recommended to other consumers by the aggrieved clients. The chair of the Legal Services Consumer Panel, Elizabeth Davies said that there is a reason why people don’t complain about the poor services offered by lawyers. As the report revealed, consumers are confused by the jargon used in the communication process, they are also uncertain what to do, and whom to turn to. Legal service consumers fear that nobody will pay much attention to their complaints and that in the end they will remain unresolved. Another fear is that in some cases the layer of the consumer might have repercussion on their case. The survey revealed that a quarter of those who complain have rated their experience as one out of ten. Additionally, even though some clients turned to the ombudsman for advice, most of the consumers were actually unsure of what role the ombudsman played in the process. Most of those clients expected that the Legal Ombudsman could actually ‘do something’ about their situation when in reality their expectations were not always fulfilled.
As Adam Sampson, the chief of Ombudsman, said lawyers need to make sure that complains of legal service consumers are taken seriously and into consideration. Lawyers can do more in order to ensure that complaints will be handled in a better way. A recent guide has been published by the ombudsman that is specially designed for lawyers in helping them handle complains in an efficient way.