1. At Serjeants’ Inn we always aim to provide an exemplary standard of service designed to meet the needs of our professional and lay clients. We are always interested to hear any comments you may have, whether positive or negative, about the service we provide.
If you have a complaint, you are invited to let us know about it as soon as possible so that we can try to resolve it to your satisfaction. It is not necessary for lay clients to involve solicitors in order to make a complaint but they are welcome to do. Your options for pursuing a complaint are not limited to our procedure. You may for example wish to raise the matter with the Legal Ombudsman and we draw your attention to that option at the end of this document.
When to make a complaint to us and the time limits for doing so
2. If you do have a complaint it is important to us that it is dealt with as soon as possible and, hopefully, to your satisfaction. Therefore, any complaint should be made in accordance with the steps described below as soon as possible after the event giving rise to the complaint and preferably within 14 days from it. Please note that we will not normally consider complaints that are raised with us outside a period of 12 months from the act or omission complained of.
How to complain
3. You may make a complaint either by telephone or in writing. The person to contact in Chambers will depend on the nature of the complaint.
3.1. If you are dissatisfied with a barrister’s work, conduct or service you may wish to contact the barrister concerned directly as s/he may be able to achieve a resolution to your satisfaction without the need for you to embark on a more formal complaint. If you are dissatisfied with the work, conduct or service of a member of staff you may wish to contact the Joint Chief Executive, Martin Dyke, who may be able to achieve a resolution that you find satisfactory. However you are not obliged to contact the barrister, or, as the case may be, Joint Chief Executive, Martin Dyke, before making a complaint.
3.2. If you are dissatisfied with the response of the barrister, or the Joint Chief Executive, your complaint should ordinarily be raised by contacting our nominated individual for complaint handling (“the Complaints Officer”).
3.3. The Complaints Officer is currently Adrian Hopkins QC. If you wish, you may complain to him directly without having first raised the matter with the barrister concerned or the Joint Chief Executive, Martin Dyke.
3.4. If any of the people mentioned above are unavailable, and the matter is urgent, you should ask to speak to the Joint Chief Executive, Catherine Calder and explain the nature of your complaint to her so that a person of appropriate seniority can be made available to respond to it.
4. If you make your complaint by telephone, the person you contact will make a note of the details of your complaint and what you would like done about it. He or she will discuss the matter with you and aim to resolve your concerns to your satisfaction. You may find it helpful to make your own note of the discussion and its outcome.
5. If you make your complaint in writing or by email, you should give the following details: your name and the postal and email addresses at which you wish to be contacted; the barrister(s) or member(s) of staff about whom you are complaining; the details of the complaint; and what you would like done about it.
Any letter should be addressed to:
Adrian Hopkins QC, Serjeants’ Inn Chambers, 85 Fleet Street, London, EC4Y1AE
Alternatively an e-mail can be sent to him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Adrian can be contacted via the Joint Chief Executive, Martin Dyke.
We will acknowledge receipt of your complaint as soon as possible and provide you with details of how it will be dealt with. To help us achieve that within our target of two working days, it would be helpful if you contact initially by telephone as suggested above so that receipt of your written complaint is expected and it can be directed without delay to the most appropriate person who is available to receive it.
6. In the first place we will try to resolve the complaint to your satisfaction informally. The person you contact or a person of appropriate seniority to whom the complaint is referred will discuss the matter with you in accordance with paragraph 4 above. It is our aim to resolve within fourteen days of receipt those complaints that are capable of informal resolution.
7. If we consider that it is not possible to resolve your complaint informally we will refer it to our formal procedure set out below. If a complaint is not resolved informally to your satisfaction or if you consider it to be too serious to be dealt with informally, you may ask us to deal with it under this formal procedure:
7.1. If you have not done so already you should record or confirm your complaint in writing by sending a letter to the Complaints Officer, giving the details set out in paragraph 5.
7.2. Within fourteen days, your letter will be considered by the Complaints Officer or a deputy in his/her absence and referred to a senior member of Chambers for investigation. In making that referral, the Complaints Officer or deputy will have complete discretion to choose the investigator but will ordinarily endeavour to choose a senior member of Chambers who has the appropriate experience to deal with the particular complaint. If the complaint is against the Complaints Officer, the Head of Chambers will appoint as investigator the next most senior member of Chambers who is appropriate to deal with it. In any case, the person appointed will be someone other than the person you are complaining about and will have had no prior involvement in the matter or the case in question.
7.3. The investigator will normally report initially to the Complaints Officer (or, where the complaint is against the Complaints Officer, the Head of Chambers), who may adopt or comment upon the report or direct further inquiries to be made or make such further inquiries him/herself before the response is provided to you.
7.4. The appointed investigator will write to you as soon as possible to let you know of his/her appointment and that s/he intends to investigate and prepare a response to your complaint within 14 days. If it is impracticable to provide the response within 14 days or if it is considered that longer is required in the interests of ensuring a thorough investigation, you will be informed of the alternative timescale that is proposed and you will be kept up to date on the progress of the investigation.
7.5. Before referring the matter to an investigator or before asking for the investigation to be conducted the Complaints Officer or deputy may ask you to provide further details or documents to clarify or support your complaint if that appears to him/her to be necessary or appropriate. Likewise, the investigator may do so in the course of the investigation.
7.6. When the investigation is concluded you will be sent a response to your complaint. This will include a brief report of the nature and scope of the investigation carried out, the conclusion reached and the basis for it, and, if the complaint is found to be justified, proposals for resolving it.
8. All documents and conversations relating to your complaint will be treated as confidential by us and disclosed only to the extent that is necessary for dealing with it. Disclosure may be made to the Complaints Officer, any member of Chambers participating in the investigation and processing of the complaint, the Joint Chief Executive, the person against whom the complaint is made and any other person necessarily involved in the investigation of the complaint or the handling and review of our Chambers’ complaints file. Disclosure may also be made to the Bar Standards Board.
9. A record will be kept of any complaint and the details and documents relating to it may be placed in our Chambers complaints file and retained for a period of six years (or longer if we deem it appropriate). Chambers will review anonymised details from this file on a regular basis with a view to maintaining and improving our standards of service.
The Legal Ombudsman
10. It is our aim to resolve all complaints through our own procedure, which we hope you will use in order to seek to resolve any complaint you may have. However, if you would rather not use this procedure or are unhappy with the outcome of an investigation, you have the choice of taking your complaint to the Legal Ombudsman at any time. Please note that the time limit for lodging a complaint with the Legal Ombudsman is six years from the date of the act or omission about which you are complaining or three years from the date when you could reasonably be expected to have realised that there was a problem. The contact details for the Legal Ombudsman are set out below.
The Legal Ombudsman
PO Box 6806
Tel: 0300 555 0333
The Legal Ombudsman publishes data on all complaints that have been resolved by an ombudsman’s final decision, which can be found on their website: www.legalombudsman.org.uk/raising-standards/data-and-decisions/