1 Our aim is to give you a good service at all times. However, if you have a complaint about some aspect of the service that you have received, you should let us know as soon as possible. It is not necessary to involve solicitors in order to make your complaint. Forum Chambers is committed to resolving your complaint fairly.
Who can complain
2 Forum will usually only deal with complaints brought by a client of a barrister of Forum. If you are not a client of a barrister of Forum and you want Forum to deal with your complaint, you will need to say why in our Complaint Form.
Types of complaint that we can investigate
3 We can investigate two types of complaint about the actions of the barristers at Forum:
• Complaints that the barrister is guilty of professional misconduct (“conduct” complaints);
• Complaints that the barrister provided you with an inadequate professional service (“service” complaints).
“Professional misconduct” is when a barrister has broken the rules set out in the Bar Standards Board’s “Code of Conduct”. The Code of Conduct contains the rules which apply to barristers as members of their profession. It is published by the Bar Standards Board and you can find a copy on their website (www.barstandardsboard.org.uk). Breach of the Code of Conduct is a disciplinary offence, and we will usually refer complaints that cover professional misconduct to the Bar Standards Board to investigate whether a disciplinary offence capable of punishment has been committed.
“Inadequate professional service” is when a barrister’s services have fallen significantly below the standard you are entitled to expect. We will always investigate complaints about the service provided to you by any of our barristers.
4 Sometimes a complaint covers both professional misconduct and inadequate professional service, but, provided you tell us what your complaint is about, you will not need to specify which of these two types your complaint is. We will then decide whether we can properly investigate all aspects of your complaint. Please note that if we determine a “conduct” complaint we decide matters to the criminal standard, i.e. beyond reasonable doubt. When we determine a “service” complaint we decide matters to the civil standard, i.e. on the balance of probabilities.
Types of complaint that we cannot investigate
5 There are some types of complaint, which we cannot investigate, and there are others where our powers of investigation are limited. These are:
• Generally, we cannot investigate your complaint if it alleges professional negligence by the barrister. This is particularly so when your complaint cannot simply or easily be determined on paper, for example when is it complex and/or the facts are in dispute between you and your barrister and/or expert evidence is required to assist in resolution and/or your barrister disputes most or all of your allegations and/or your compensation claim is over our limit of £5,000. If, however, the conduct you are complaining about amounts to only low level professional negligence it can be dealt with.
• We cannot investigate your complaint if it is about your barrister’s professional judgement in the decisions made during a case.
• Private life: Generally we cannot investigate your complaint if it concerns a barrister’s private life. This includes any private debts owed by the barrister, unless there is a serious breach of a Court order.
Time limit for making complaints
6 It is important that you let us have your complaint as soon as possible after the date of the event you want to complain about. This is so that we can investigate your complaint promptly, in the interests of fairness to all those concerned. To investigate your complaint you must fill in our Complaint Form. If you have difficulty or require assistance in the completion of this Form you should inform us. If we do not receive your complaint within 9 months of the matter you want to complain about, we will probably decide that we cannot deal with it. In deciding whether to deal with a complaint which more than 9 months old, we will bear in mind:
• The seriousness of the complaint;
• Any exceptional circumstances which justify investigation of it even though it is more than 9 months old.
Making your complaint
7 You can make your complaint:
• by telephone; or
• by completing our Complaint Form, which you can send to us by post or by e-mail.
8 If you want to complain by telephone,
• Please telephone the Head of Chambers, if your complaint is about a barrister other than the Head of Chambers or a member of staff;
• Please telephone the Deputy Head of Chambers, if your complaint is about the Head of Chambers.
9 If you make your complaint by telephone, we will complete a copy of our Complaint Form which summarises the telephone call and ask you to confirm that it describes your complaint accurately.
10 If we are able to resolve your complaint over the telephone, we will send you a letter confirming the outcome of the telephone call.
11 If you want to complete our Complaints Form, please explain the nature of your complaint as clearly and concisely as you can.
How we will deal with your complaint
12 If your complaint is about a barrister other than the Head of Chambers or a member of staff, your complaint will be investigated by a person appointed by the Head of Chambers. If your complaint is about the Head of Chambers, your complaint will be investigated by a person appointed by the Deputy Head of Chambers.
13 The Investigator will not be the person you are complaining about. The Investigator will write to you by 5 working days after receipt of your Complaint Form to let you know he/she has been appointed.
14 The Investigator will carry out an investigation of your complaint and will respond to your complaint within 30 working days of Forum receiving your Complaint Form. If there are exceptional circumstances which mean that the Investigator cannot complete their investigation within 30 working days, they will contact you and let you know why.
15 The Investigator’s report will set out:
• The nature and scope of the investigation;
• The conclusion that the Investigator has reached on each matter of complaint and the reasons for that conclusion; and
• If your complaint has been found to be justified, proposals for resolving it.
16 In order to investigate your complaint, the Investigator may need to disclose the fact of your complaint, and the details of it to:
• The person or persons about whom you have complained; and
• Those whom he feels can assist him in any investigation of facts relevant to your complaint. The Investigator will not, however, disclose the fact of your complaint or the details of it to anyone unless he decides that it is necessary to do so in the interests of a full and fair investigation.
17 The Investigator does not have the power to hear oral evidence either in support of your complaint or in response to it. Any request he may make for information, and any response to such a request, will be made in writing and a record retained.
18 The Investigator’s report will be sent to you, to the Head of Chambers and the Deputy Head of Chambers, and to the person you complained about.
Complaints to the Legal Ombudsman
19 If you are a client of a Forum barrister and unhappy with the outcome of the 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. As stated above, the Legal Ombudsman is not able to consider your complaint until it has first been investigated by Chambers.
20 The Legal Ombudsman is only able to deal with complaints from those types of clients who are listed in paragraph 2.1 of the Legal Ombudsman Scheme Rules.
21 You must complain to the Legal Ombudsman either within six years of your barrister’s actions/failure to act, or no later than three years after you should reasonably have known there were grounds to complain.
22 You must also complain to the Legal Ombudsman within six months of receiving your barrister’s final response to your complaint.
23 You can write to the Legal Ombudsman at: The Office of the Legal Ombudsman, PO Box 15870, Birmingham B30 9EB.
Tel: 0300 555 033 Website: www.legalombudsman.org.uk
24 If you are unhappy with the outcome of our investigation, you can also contact the Bar Standards Board at: Bar Standards Board, Professional Conduct Department, 289-293 High Holborn, London WC1V 7JZ. Tel: 0207 611 1444 Website: www.barstandardsboard.org.uk