The Legal Ombudsman for England and Wales (formerly Legal Services Ombudsman, or LSO) gives consumers access to an independent expert to resolve complaints about Solicitors and other providers of legal services. The service is free and is open to all individuals.
The Ombudsman is independent of both the legal profession and the government, and is impartial.
If the Ombudsman decides that the service provided by a firm of Solicitors was unsatisfactory, or the costs charged were excessive, he can ask them to remedy matters in a variety of ways, including:
- telling them to apologise to the client
- awarding compensation (and interest) for any loss suffered or for inconvenience/distress caused (up to a general limit of £30, 000)
- ordering any error or omission to be remedied or other necessary action taken in the interests of the complainant
- ordering part or all of the Solicitor’s costs to be refunded
- ordering payment of the costs incurred in pursuing the complaint
A decision which has been accepted by the complainant becomes final and binding, and may be enforced through the High Court or a county court, either by the complainant, or by the Ombudsman.
The Ombudsman will not entertain complaints against another party’s lawyers, for example if a Seller thinks that a Buyer’s Solicitors have delayed a transaction or have raised unreasonable queries.
The powers of the Ombudsman derive from the Courts and Legal Services Act 1990. In creating the role of Legal Ombudsman, it was Parliament’s intention to protect the interests of the consumers of legal services – clients, and members of the public.