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Law Society hits back at Manzoor fine

26 May 2006

The Law Society has hit back at the £250,000 fine handed down by the Legal Services Complaints Commissioner, Zahida Manzoor, calling the targets she set “unrealistic and unreasonable”.

In a paper entitled ‘Complaints handling: the facts’, the chair of the Society’s Consumer Complaints Board, Professor Shamit Saggar, said that to meet Manzoor’s targets for 2006-7, the Law Society would have to “increase the number of caseworkers from 340 to about 425 now”. ”In reality it takes nine months to recruit and get new caseworkers up to full capacity,” he said. “To stand a chance of meeting the proposed targets, we would have to double our output during the last three months of 2006-07. Many of the new staff would have to be made redundant soon after.”

The paper was released in response to a letter sent to the Law Society by Manzoor earlier this week, issuing the £250,000 fine and setting out her reasons for the level of the penalty. As yet, the contents of the letter have not been made public.

In the paper, Saggar accused Manzoor of giving the impression that “the Consumer Complaints Service was in a hopeless mess and letting consumers down”. “But the facts prove this is simply not so,” he said. Saggar went on to give six examples of how the CCS has improved the Law Society’s handling of complaints over the past three years.

This could be the start of a bad few weeks for the Law Society as this fine is only for the inadequacy of its complaints handling plan for the coming year. Manzoor is expected to make another decision before the end of June on the Society’s performance over the past 12 months, and to impose further penalties.

Talking to Solicitors Journal, Manzoor said: “I have considered the shortfalls in the plan, the representations – both written and oral – made by the Law Society, and decided on the scale of penalties I could levy, which could be up to £1m, what was a fair and reasonable level. I was only looking for very modest improvements in the Law Society’s complaints-handling.”

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Risk & Compliance Procedures Local government