1 Our aim is to give you a good service at all times. However, if you have a complaint you are invited to let us know as soon as possible. It is not necessary to involve solicitors in order to make your complaint, but you are free to do so should you wish.
2 Please note that the Legal Ombudsman, the independent complaints body for service complaints about lawyers, has time limits in which a complaint must be raised with them. The time limits are:
a) The act or omission, or when the complainant should reasonably have known there was cause for complaint, must have been after 5 October 2010; and
b) The complainant must refer the complaint to the Legal Ombudsman no later than six years from the act/omission, or three years from when the complainant should reasonably have known there was cause for complaint.
c) The complainant must also refer the complaint to the Legal Ombudsman within six months of the complaint receiving a final response from their lawyer, if that response complies with the requirements in rule 4.4 of the Scheme Rules (which requires the response to include prominently an explanation that the Legal Ombudsman was available if the complainant remained dissatisfied, and the provision of full contact details for the Ombudsman and a warning that the complaint must be referred to them within six months).
3 Chambers must have regard to that timeframe when deciding whether they are able to investigate your complaint. Chambers will not therefore usually deal with complaints that fall outside of the Legal Ombudsman’s time limits. The Ombudsman can extend the time limit in exceptional circumstances. Details of how to contact the Legal Ombudsman can be found at the end of this policy.
4 The Ombudsman will also only deal with complaints from consumers. This means that only complaints from the barrister’s client are within their jurisdiction. Non-clients who are not satisfied with the outcome of the Chambers’ investigation should contact the BSB rather than the Legal Ombudsman. Details of how to contact the BSB can be found at the end of this policy.
5 It should be noted that it might 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 BSB. Therefore, chambers will make an initial assessment of the complaint and if we feel that the issues raised cannot be satisfactorily resolved through the chambers complaints process, we will refer you to the BSB.
Complaints made by telephone
6 You may wish to make a complaint in writing and, if so, please follow the procedure in paragraph 9 below. However, if you would rather speak on the telephone about your complaint, and if the complaint is about a member of Chambers or a member of staff, in the first instance, please contact John Grimmer, Senior Clerk.
7 If your complaint is against the Senior Clerk, John Grimmer, contact either of our joint Heads of Chambers, Brian Altman QC and Jim Sturman QC whomever you contact will make a note of the details of your complaint and what you would like to have done about it. They will discuss your concerns with you and aim to resolve them. If the matter is resolved they will record the outcome, 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.
8 If your complaint is not resolved on the telephone, you will be invited to write to us about it, so it can be investigated formally.
Complaints Made in Writing
9 Please give the following details where possible:
10 Please address your letter to Brian Altman QC and Jim Sturman QC, Heads of Chambers, Complaints, 2 Bedford Row, London, WC1R 4BU. We will, where possible, acknowledge receipt of your complaint within seven days and provide you with details of how your complaint will be dealt with.
11 Our Chambers has a panel headed by our joint Heads of Chambers, Brian Altman QC and Jim Sturman QC, and it is made up of experienced members of Chambers able to consider any written complaint. Written complaints will be investigated by either of our joint Heads of Chambers, Brian Altman QC and Jim Sturman QC. In the event that neither Mr Altman QC or Mr Sturman QC are able to respond to your complaint (within our policy timescales) then your complaint will be investigated by a member of the panel appointed by them within 14 days of your letter being received by the Heads of Chambers.
12 When we acknowledge receipt of your complaint, we will also notify you of the name of the person who will investigate your complaint.
13 If your complaint is against either of the Heads of Chambers, then it will be investigated by the next most senior member of the panel. In any case, the person appointed will be someone other than the person you are complaining about.
14 The person appointed to investigate will write to you as soon as possible to let you know they have been appointed and that they will reply to your complaint within 28 days. If they find that they are not going to be able to reply within 28 days they will set a new date for their reply and inform you. Their reply will set out:
15 All conversations and documents relating to the complaint will be treated as confidential and will be disclosed only to the extent that is necessary. Disclosure will be to the joint Heads of Chambers, members of our Management Committee and to anyone involved in the complaint and its investigation. Such people will include the barrister or staff member who you have complained about and/or the relevant senior member who investigates the complaint. The BSB is entitled to inspect the documents and seek information about the complaint when discharging its monitoring functions.
16 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 six years. Our Management Committee inspects an anonymised record regularly with a view to improving services.
Complaints to the Legal Ombudsman/alternative dispute resolution
17 If you are unhappy with the outcome of our investigation and you fall within their jurisdiction 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 not able to consider your complaint until it has first been investigated by Chambers. Please note the timeframe for referral of complaints to the Ombudsman as set out at paragraph two above. Those clients who are able to complain to the Legal Ombudsman are as follows:
b) Businesses or enterprises that are micro-enterprises within the meaning of Article 1 and Article 2(1) and (3) of the Annex to Commission Recommendation 2003/361/EC (broadly businesses or enterprises with fewer than 10 employees and turnover or assets not exceeding €2 million);
c) Charities with an annual income net of tax of less than £1 million;
d) Clubs, associations or organisations, the affairs of which are managed by its members or a committee of its members, with an annual income net of tax of less than £1 million;
e) Trustees of trusts with an asset value of less than £1 million; and
f) Personal representatives or beneficiaries of the estates of persons who, before they died, had not referred the complaint to the Legal Ombudsman.
You can write to the Legal Ombudsman at:
PO Box 6806
Telephone number: 0300 555 0333
More information about the Legal Ombudsman is available on their website: http://www.legalombudsman.org.uk/
18 If you are unhappy with the outcome of the investigation, alternative complaints bodies (such as ProMediate at) also exist which are competent to deal with complaints about legal services, should you and the barrister both wish to use such a scheme. If you wish to use ProMediate, then please contact us to discuss this. Please also note that: (1) the time limit for contacting ProMediate is two weeks immediately after the results of the Chambers investigation and (2) if mediation is used, neither you nor the barrister is required to accept the proposed resolution. If mediation does not resolve the complaint, you may still make a complaint to the Legal Ombudsman (provided you fall within their jurisdiction and you do so within the time limit).
19 If you are not the barrister’s client and are unhappy with the outcome of our investigation, then please contact the Bar Standards Board at:
Bar Standards Board
Contact and Assessment Team
289-293 High Holborn
Telephone number: 0207 6111 444
(Revised: December 2019)