It is the duty of every barrister of Hardwicke chambers and every member of staff to inform the Chief Executive of any complaint made about them.
We recognise that it is important that all complaints are dealt with promptly, courteously and in a manner which addresses the issues raised in accordance with our procedures.
Hardwicke Chambers Complaints Procedure
We pride ourselves on aiming to provide an excellent service to clients at all times. However, we recognise that there may be occasions when clients feel that the level of service has fallen short of that which is expected from someone at Hardwicke. If that is the case we would prefer to know straight away, so that we can try to do something to rectify the matter immediately to your satisfaction. If we are not able to resolve matters, we understand that you may feel that you would prefer to make a formal complaint. We therefore take feedback, complaints and the investigation of them seriously so that we may learn and further improve what we do.
If you have a complaint, we encourage you to let us know as soon as possible. We recognise that it is important that all complaints are dealt with promptly, courteously and in a manner which addresses the issues raised in accordance with our procedures and professional obligations. It is not necessary to involve solicitors in order to make your complaint but you are free to do so should you wish.
Our Complaints Procedure deals with service issues. It is not usually appropriate for chambers to deal with allegations of professional negligence or serious misconduct under the Code of Conduct. In so far as a complaint extends beyond service issues into issues of misconduct we may suggest that it be referred to the Bar Standards Board. In so far as your complaint raises issues of professional negligence the Barrister is required to report the same to their professional indemnity insurers who may elect to deal with it themselves.
Quality Assurance & Complaints Sub-Committee
We have a Quality Assurance & Complaints Sub-Committee whose responsibility is to oversee the Complaints Procedure and reports to the Chambers Management Committee, which acts on behalf of Barristers at Hardwicke. The Chair of the Committee is a QC supported by experienced Hardwicke barristers and senior members of staff.
The Complaints Officers are senior barristers who investigate, in rotation subject to adjustment for seniority, conflicts regarding previous decisions or similar factors, any complaint allocated to them with independence, professionalism and objectivity.
The Complaints Administrator is a senior member of staff who handles all correspondence for complaints, ensuring that all timescales are met, and maintains records of complaints and all related correspondence.
The Committee is responsible for ensuring that we have a clear, robust, fair and transparent complaints procedure, which meets regulatory requirements with clear timescales, is in place and is adhered to. They determine what lessons can be learnt from complaints made to chambers and make recommendations to the Chambers Management Committee on improvements which could be made to the processes, procedures and client support offered by Hardwicke.
Complaints Made by Telephone
You may wish to make a complaint in writing and, if so, please follow the formal procedure below. However, if you would rather speak to someone on the telephone about your complaint then please telephone the Complaints Administrator or, in their absence, the Chief Executive. If the complaint is about the Chief Executive, please telephone one of the Heads of Chambers. All the contact details are provided at the end of this Procedure.
The person you contact will make a note of the details of your complaint and what you would like to have done about it. Complaints can be dealt with formally under our complaints procedure or more informally. It is your choice how to proceed. Once you have spoken to someone our Complaints Administrator will email you with details of the complaints procedure for formal complaints and, if you have expressed an interest in dealing with the matter informally, the name and contact details of someone who will deal with the matter informally. If you elect to proceed on an informal basis that person 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.
If your complaint is not resolved informally, you will be invited to write to us about it so it can be investigated formally.
Formal Complaints made in Writing
Please make your complaint by letter or email to the Complaints Administrator who will have the initial responsibility for handling your complaint. If your complaint is about the Complaints Administrator and you feel uncomfortable about addressing it directly to them, in the first instance, then please send it by letter or email to the Chief Executive.
It would be helpful if you could include the following information so we can deal with your complaint as effectively as possible:
- Your contact details including name, address and, if applicable, email address;
- Whether you are a client, instructing solicitor or had some other role;
- The name of the Barrister or member of staff you are complaining about;
- The nature of the complaint;
- What the Barrister or member of staff was asked to do and what happened or did not happen;
- What steps you would like to see taken to resolve your complaint.
Once your formal complaint has been received, the Complaints Administrator will explain to you how it will be handled. We try to keep this process flexible to take account of different circumstances. In principle, it will work as follows.
We will aim to acknowledge receipt of your complaint within 4 days of receipt, or sooner, and provide you with details of how your complaint will be dealt with. You may be asked to provide further information if it is required. Within 14 days of acknowledging receipt of your complaint, we will write to inform you which Complaints Officer has been appointed and the date by which we aim to send you their response, after a thorough investigation. This would normally be within 14 days of the Complaints Officer being appointed. If this is going to take longer for some reason, we will write to you to explain this and also the new date for their response. Their response will set out:
- The nature and scope of their investigation;
- Their conclusion on each complaint and the basis for their conclusion; and
- If they find that you are justified in your complaint, their proposals for resolving the complaint.
In line with BSB guidance, all conversations and documents shall be confidential and disclosed only to the extent necessary. They may be disclosed only to the complainant, the Barrister complained about, the Heads of Chambers, the Chair of our QACS Committee or relevant senior member of the Committee, the Complaints Officer, the Complaints Administrator (or substitute if absent), the Chief Executive, the Chambers Management Committee (for monitoring purposes) and any other individual with whom enquiries need to be made for the purpose of the investigation.
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.
Complaints to the Legal Ombudsman
If you are unhappy with the outcome of our investigation at the conclusion of our consideration, and you fall within their jurisdiction, you may take up your complaint with the Legal Ombudsman, the independent complaints body for complaints about lawyers. 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 below.
a) Six years from the date of the act/omission.
b) Three years from the date that the complainant should reasonably have known there were grounds for complaint (if the act/omission took place before the 6 October 2010 or was more than six years ago).
c) 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).
The Ombudsman can extend the time limit in exceptional circumstances. Chambers must therefore 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 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 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 the Chambers complaints process they will refer you to the Bar Standards Board.
+44 (0)20 7242 2523
+44 (0)20 7242 2523
Joint Heads of Chambers
Paul Reed QC
PJ Kirby QC
London WC2A 3SB
PO Box 6806
Telephone number: 0300 555 0333
Bar Standards Board
Professional Conduct Department
289-293 High Holborn
Telephone number: 0207 6111 444