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  6. Can I conclude a final agreement to avoid a client reopening a complaint?

Can I conclude a final agreement to avoid a client reopening a complaint?

I am trying to resolve a client complaint but they are reluctant to accept my full and final settlement offer. I think that they may later try to reopen the matter. Can I conclude a final agreement to avoid this?

Any agreement between a firm and a client to resolve a complaint "in full and final settlement" must not exclude a client from raising their complaint with the Legal Ombudsman (LeO) or the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).

Outcome 10.7 of the SRA Code of Conduct 2011 states:

"You must achieve these outcomes: you do not attempt to prevent anyone from providing information to the SRA or the Legal Ombudsman."

Indicative behaviour(10.11) provides that:

"Acting in the following way(s) may tend to show that you have not achieved these outcomes and therefore not complied with the Principles: entering into an agreement which would attempt to preclude the SRA or the Legal Ombudsman from investigating any actual or potential compliant or allegation of professional misconduct."

If a complaint is made to the LeO and is informally resolved, or the LeO investigates and both parties agree to a "case decision", the LeO may treat the complaint as resolved.

The complainant's acceptance of an ombudsman's "final decision" also stops any other claim in relation to the complaint.

For further information, see the Legal Ombudsman's scheme rules at 5.17 to 5.20 and 5.46 to 5.54.

Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information in this article, it does not constitute legal advice and cannot be relied upon as such. The Law Society does not accept any responsibility for liabilities arising as a result of reliance upon the information given.

Have you got a practice question? Call the Practice Advice Service on 020 7320 5675 or email practiceadvice@lawsociety.org.uk

The Practice Advice Service is staffed Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm.

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