Legal Ombudsman Reveals mainly Complaints About Divorce Lawyers

A revelation came from the legal ombudsman that they do not receive more complaints in any other area of law than in family law and especially divorces.

According to a report called The Price of Separation, last year 18% of complaints that the ombudsman resolved were on divorce cases and family law.

The reason of a quarter of the complaints was the fact that most of the couples claimed they did not get enough information on the cost of their divorce.

An example was cited in the report explaining the case of a complainant who had first agreed a specific budget with her law firm but in the moment when their bill reached the very limit they asked the law firm to stop but it continued to act on her behalf.

In the end the bill was £15,000 larger than they initially indented to pay.

The lawyers are meant to do more to “save customers from themselves” and the long and expensive legal battles.

“In the case of divorce, that may be to counsel them against prolonging the case or fighting an unwinnable fight: persuading them that although they are angry and upset at their spouse’s behaviour, court may not be the best place to fight out those emotions,”

Another thing the report mentioned was that family lawyers and law firms do not do enough to keep clients up to date with the price of their cases.

The head of the LeO, Adam Sampson, said there was nothing strange in the fact that divorce lawyers received more complaints having in mind that most of their clients are too emotional and this way they create their problems on their own.

“However, clearly lawyers could be doing more to reduce complaints by providing accurate cost information, providing decent service levels and by taking complaints seriously,” he added. “I think this report challenges lawyers to raise their game and make the divorce process less painful for consumers.”

The LeO has republished their Cost Guide for Lawyers on their website, as well as publishing a consumer guide for using a divorce lawyer.

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‘Intimidated by jargon’ Consumers Turn to The Legal Ombudsman for Help

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.