1. This procedure applies to all barristers and staff operating from Chambers, whether practicing as self-employed barristers or BSB authorised bodies (sometimes referred to as “separate entities”) or otherwise, and the term “staff” includes the practice manager(s) and staff of such separate entities.
2. Our barristers and staff aim to provide you with a good service at all times. Client care is extremely important to us and any feedback (whether positive or negative) is invaluable in ensuring continued quality of service provision as it assists with ongoing updating/review of our practices and procedures and enables us to put in place measures to remedy any shortcomings that may be identified. If you have a complaint you are invited to let us know as soon as possible. This procedure applies to both solicitors (our professional clients) and to members of the public (our lay clients) who instruct us either through solicitors or directly through the Direct Access Scheme.
3. We wish to make it clear that:
a. if you are a member of the public who has instructed us through a solicitor you may ask the solicitor to make the complaint on your behalf. However it is not necessary to do this and you are free to make the complaint to us directly if you prefer.
b. Whichever course you take, please be reassured that Chambers will not charge to investigate your complaint.
4. Please note that Chambers has regard to the time limits set by the Legal Ombudsman (the independent complaints body for service complaints about lawyers) when deciding whether Chambers are able to investigate your complaint. Chambers will not usually deal with complaints that fall outside these time limits. The Legal Ombudsman’s ordinary time limits (the time by which a complaint must be referred to them) are as follows.
a) one year from the date of the act/omission complained of, or
b) one year from the date the complainant should reasonably have known there was cause for complaint;
c) within 6 months of the complainant receiving a final written response from St Ives Chambers.
In relation to sections a) and b) above the act or omission, or when the complainant should reasonably have known there was cause for complaint, must have been after 5.10.10 for the Ombudsman to deal with the matter. The Ombudsman can extend the time limits if they consider it fair and reasonable, to such extent that they consider fair.
5. The Ombudsman will also only deal with complaints from consumers. This means that only complaints from the barrister’s clients, or from those who claim to have been unreasonably refused legal services, are within their jurisdiction. “Non-clients” who are not satisfied with the outcome of the Chambers’ investigations should contact the Bar Standards Board rather than the Legal Ombudsman. It should be noted that it may not always be possible to investigate a complaint brought by a non-client. This is because the ability of Chambers to satisfactorily investigate and resolve such matters is limited and complaints of this nature are often better suited to the disciplinary processes maintained by the Bar Standards Board. Therefore, Chambers will make an initial assessment of the complaint and if they feel that the issues raised cannot be satisfactorily resolved through Chambers complaints process they will refer you to the Bar Standards Board.
6. Please be aware that:
a. a complaint which is in reality an allegation of professional negligence may more appropriately be directed to the barrister’s insurers (the BMIF);
b. Chambers may decline to investigate, may discontinue or may summarily dismiss all or part of a complaint if in Its opinion:
(i) it does not have any reasonable prospect of success or;
(ii) it is frivolous or vexatious; or
(iii) it would not be a proportionate use of Panel’s time to investigate the complaint, due to the likely impact, its complexity, the amount of evidence provided, or due to the conduct of the complainant during the investigation.
Complaints made by telephone
7. You may wish to make a complaint in writing / by email and, if so, please follow the procedure in paragraphs 9 – 11 below. However, if you would rather speak on the telephone about your complaint then please arrange to speak by telephone to Mr Nicholas Starks who is the Chair of our Complaints Panel. Mr Starks is a Barrister and a member of Chambers. In the event that the complaint is about Mr Starks then Matthew Haynes, the Deputy Chair of the Complaints Panel, should be contacted instead. He is also a Barrister and a member of Chambers. As Mr Starks (and Mr Haynes) are usually in court during the day we would ask that when telephoning chambers you make it clear that you are telephoning in relation to a complaint and that you leave a message with your name, telephone number and email address in order that Mr Starks (or Mr Haynes) can contact you. Your message will be emailed to Mr Starks (or Mr Haynes) and he will return your call (or in the event that you are not available, will contact you by email) within 24 hours. Chambers telephone number is 0121-236-0863.
8. Mr Starks (or Mr Haynes) will make a note of the details of your complaint and what you would like done about it. They will discuss your concerns with you and aim to resolve them informally. If the matter is resolved the outcome will be recorded, they will check that you are satisfied with the outcome and record that you are satisfied. You may also wish to record the outcome of the telephone discussion in writing for your own records.
9. If your complaint is not resolved informally by the telephone call you will be invited to contact us in writing / by email about it within the next 14 days so that it can be investigated formally.
Complaints made in writing
10. If you wish to make a formal complaint in writing please ensure that your letter is dated and that you provide us with the following details:
- Your name and address
- The name of the barrister or member of staff you are complaining about
- Information about what it is that you are complaining about with as much detail as possible.
- What you would like done about it.
- Any special needs you may have and how you would wish these might be accommodated.
It would assist us if you provide an email address for ease of response. We can then forward you a copy of our letter by email.
11. Your letter should be addressed to “Jackie Maskew, for the attention of Nicholas Starks” and should be sent to St Ives Chambers, 1-3 Whittall Street, Birmingham B4 6DH. This is to ensure that if Mr Starks is out of chambers the letter is opened immediately. In the event that the complaint is about Mr Starks then please address the letter to “Jackie Maskew, for the attention of Mr Matthew Haynes”.
Complaints made by email
12.You may of course complain directly to Mr Starks by email, setting out the information requested in paragraph 9 above. Please send your email to firstname.lastname@example.org (the address is not case sensitive).
Handling of your complaint and timescales
13. Chambers usual process for handling complaints is set out in the following paragraphs; this is to ensure that:
a. There is a clear and transparent approach to complaints handling;
b. There are clear expectations as to what information needs to be provided to deal with a complaint;
c. There are clear timescales for the resolution of your complaint.
However Chambers acknowledges that ‘one size won’t always fit all’ and that circumstances may mean that it may be necessary to try a different way of handling your complaint, which can be discussed if and when necessary.
14.We will, where possible, acknowledge receipt of your complaint within two days and promptly thereafter provide you with details of how and by whom your complaint will be dealt with and the date by which you will next hear from Chambers in relation to the complaint.
15. Our Chambers has a Complaints Panel headed by Nicholas Starks; the Panel consists of experienced barristers who are members of Chambers and a senior member of staff. The Complaints Panel considers any written complaint. Within 14 days of your letter being received the head of the Complaints Panel (or the Deputy in his absence) will appoint a member of the Complaints Panel to investigate your complaint and provide information to the Complaints Panel to enable Panel to reach a decision as to the outcome of your complaint within 28 days of your complaint being received. The person investigating your complaint will always be someone other than the person you are complaining about.
16. The person appointed to investigate will write to you as soon as possible to let you know they have been appointed and that the Chair of the Complaints Panel will arrange a Complaints Panel meeting to consider your Complaint within 28 days of your complaint being received. If the investigator finds later that they are not going to be able to investigate within this period and therefore that the Chair of the Complaints Panel will not be able to conclude the matter within 28 days of your complaint, you will be informed and a new date will be set. If the investigator needs help in fully understanding your complaint, they will contact you for further information / clarification.
17. Once the investigation has been completed and considered by Panel, the Chair of the Complaints Panel will within 2 days of the Panel meeting send you a reply setting out:
- The nature and scope of the investigations
- The conclusion of the Complaints Panel in respect of each complaint and the basis for the conclusion; and
- If it is found that you are justified in your complaint, an apology and any proposals for resolving the complaint.
18. All conversations and documents relating to the complaint will be treated as confidential and will be disclosed only to the extent that it is necessary. Disclosure will be to the head of Chambers, members of our management committee and management team, and to anyone involved in the complaint and its investigation. Such people will include the barrister or the member of staff about whom you have complained, and the members of the Complaints Panel. The Bar Standards Board is entitled to inspect the documents and to seek information about the complaint when discharging its auditing and monitoring functions. If you are not satisfied with the outcome of the complaint and you refer the matter to the Legal Ombudsman we would need to disclose the documents to them too. Chambers Director will routinely destroy all documents relating to a complaint 3 years after its determination by Panel in accordance with the General Data Protection Regulation.
19. As part of our commitment to client care we make a written record of any complaint and retain all documents and correspondence generated by the complaint for a period of 3 years. Our management committee inspects an anonymised record regularly with a view to improving services.
Complaints to the Legal Ombudsman or the Bar Standards Board
20. If you are an actual / potential client who remains dissatisfied with the outcome of our investigation you may take up your complaint with the Legal Ombudsman, the independent complaints body for complaints about lawyers, at the conclusion of our consideration of your complaint. The Ombudsman is ordinarily unable to consider your complaint until it has first been investigated by Chambers. Please note the time limits referred to in paragraph 4 above and in particular the requirement that you must make any complaint to the Ombudsman within 6 months of Chambers’ written response to your complaint. You can contact the Legal Ombudsman in writing at: Legal Ombudsman, PO Box 6806 Wolverhampton WV1 9WJ; telephone on 0300 555 0333; email: email@example.com. The Legal Ombudsman compiles decision data in relation to complaints which you can access at https://www.legalombudsman.org.uk/information-centre/data-centre/complaints-data/
21. If you are a non-client and are unhappy with the outcome of our investigation you may take up your complaint with the Bar Standards Board by completing a complaints form (available from their website, below) and sending it to: Assessment Team, Professional Conduct Department, 289-293 High Holborn, London, WC1V 7HZ. Telephone number 020 7611 1444.Website: www.barstandarsboard.org.uk. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The BSB also compiles data in relation to the profile of barristers including in relation to disciplinary findings, which can be found at https://www.barstandardsboard.org.uk/regulatory-requirements/the-barristers’-register