Legal Ombudsman must quickly address complaints backlog

The Legal Ombudsman Service (LeO) must focus on addressing the backlog of cases and reducing average customer journey times, the Law Society of England and Wales said today.

In response to the Office of Legal Complaints (OLC) 2024-2027 draft strategy and 2024-2025 business plan consultation for LeO, the Law Society continues to be concerned about the Ombudsman not meeting performance targets including:

  • the backlog of cases waiting for investigation
  • customer journey times
  • staff attrition rates

“Whilst we are pleased that LeO has made some recent inroads towards reducing the backlog of cases, not last because of the new early resolution process, the Ombudsman continues to struggle to deliver on its primary statutory function of providing a speedy complaints resolution scheme,” said Law Society president Nick Emmerson.

“The customer journey time for resolving complaints currently is around seven to eight and a half months, which is too long. Shortening wait times will reduce the total customer journey time to between three and five months for investigations. This would be a significant step in providing a quick and informal ombudsman scheme for complaints resolution.

“We believe that recruitment and retainment must focus on investigators and ensuring that their training equips them to provide a competent service where quality is assured and waiting times are substantially reduced.”

On staff productivity and attrition, Nick Emmerson said: “The OLC is proposing a budget of £17.95 million for 2024/2025, a 6.95% increase to its current budget.

“A portion of these funds are proposed for increasing salaries, but also to part fund a new team to support the other part of the OLC’s proposed strategy for greater focus on learning and insight work.

“Whilst this delivers some positives it must not be at the expense of delivering on its statutory function of administering a quick and informal complaints resolution scheme.

“The OLC has reported that in 2022-23 the average productivity of investigators was 4.3 cases per month, which seems inexplicably low and LeO continues to be vulnerable to high staff attrition rates.”

Nick Emmerson concluded: “Despite the divergence in the views of the OLC and the Law Society on some aspects of the OLC strategy and business plans, we hope to continue to work collaboratively in the coming year.”

Notes to editors

Read the OLC’s consultation on draft 2024-2027 strategy and 2024-2025 business plan

Read the Law Society’s response to the OLC’s draft 2024-2027 strategy and 2024-2025 business plan

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