In our previous article, we discussed Resolution and how it works. But what happens if you are not satisfied with the services a member has provided, or they’ve not followed the Code of Practice? This article takes a deeper look at these issues and what you can do about it.
As with all professional membership organisations, Resolution takes all complaints seriously and has set out a comprehensive complaints policy and procedure. Resolution promises to:
- Ensure they find the earliest possible solution is sought to any complaint and provide a fair and appropriate outcome for all parties, using both formal and informal methods
- Treat all parties with respect and fairness and with the utmost of confidentiality
- Consider each complaint without reference to race, belief, religion, gender, disability, sexual orientation, or age
- Ensure that the decisions they make are transparent and reasoned, and promptly inform all parties of each stage of the process
- Do everything possible to keep the stress of the process to a minimum and offer personal support when required
- Reflect upon and try to learn from each complaint
What is the procedure for making a complaint to Resolution?
There are two routes for making a complaint to Resolution: formal and informal. The purpose of the informal route is to enable concerns to be discussed and resolved between the parties. Most concerns can be dealt with informally and this is the starting point for any complaint, which starts with a Complaints Administrator contacting the complainant to discuss the matter and next steps.
Some complaints can only be dealt with informally, such as if the case and any court proceedings have not concluded or they ended more than 12 months ago. Here, these cases can only be dealt with informally unless there are exceptional circumstances.
If it isn’t possible to resolve the complaint informally, the formal route follows the procedure below:
- In the first instance, the person wishing to complain completes an online complaint information form. Resolution should acknowledge receipt within 7 days
- The complaint will be assessed, the complainant spoken to, and further information taken, if necessary. They will also discuss the outcome the complaint hopes to achieve
- The complaints assessor will carry out checks as to whether the complaint meets the necessary eligibility criteria (see below when a complaint cannot be made). If this is not met, then the case will be dealt with informally, and the process will end there.
- Once a complaint has been determined it can be dealt formally, Resolution will ask the member for an explanation about their actions and reasons for taking decisions together with discussing the complainants view on the possible outcome.
- Within 7 days of receiving the response from the member, Resolution will forward their response on to the complainant and ask them to:
- Confirm they are satisfied with the member’s response
- If they are not satisfied, if they would like the matter referred on to the independent Practice Standards Panel for further consideration
- If there is anything else that could bring about a conclusion to the matter
- The complainant must reply within 21 days of receiving the members response. However, if they are satisfied with the member’s reply, the process will end at this stage.
- If the complaint is referred to the Practice Standards Panel, the original complaint, response and any relevant assessment or comment will be passed onto them for consideration at their next meeting.
- Once the panel has reached its decision, it will forward the outcome to both parties. At this point, both parties have 21 days to consider and confirm if the findings are acceptable or not. The process either ends here if satisfied, or must be appealed if not.
Can I appeal a decision of the Resolution Practice Standards Panel?
If the complainant is not satisfied with the panel’s decision, it will send out an appeal form, asking them to set out the reasons they disagree. The completed form will then be sent to an independent appeals officer who will consider whether the grounds for an appeal have been met and if there is a reasonable chance the appeal will succeed. Grounds for an appeal include:
- Procedural irregularity, such as the process not being followed correctly
- Irrelevant matters have been considered or something has been ignored
- The conclusion reached is plainly wrong
- The sanction given is inappropriate
If the appeals officer thinks there are no grounds for appeal, the process will end there. Otherwise, they will reassess the information provided and considered whether there is any reasonable prospect of reaching a resolution within 28 days. The assessment and recommendation will be considered final.
What outcomes can I expect from a complaint to Resolution?
During any point in the process, the member, Practice Standards Panel or Appeals Officer can agree on actions that must be taken. These include:
- Issuing an apology: The member will be expected to provide an apology within 10 days of being notified one is required.
- Training: The member will be notified about the requirement for undertaking additional training or learning and will be expected to provide confirmation of attendance within 3 months.
- Removal of accredited status: If this happens, the member will be required to remove any logos or references to accreditation from their public materials with a set timeframe.
- Membership suspension: The member will be informed the duration of the suspension and Resolution will notify other regulatory bodies.
- Termination of membership: The member will be required to remove any logos or references from their website and public materials. The termination will be recorded, and should the member reapply in the future, their application will be handed over to the Practice Standards Panel.
When can’t I make a complaint to Resolution?
In order to make a complaint to Resolution, the person being complained about must be a member of Resolution and the proceedings/case must be at an end. In addition, the issue must have occurred within the last 12 months, and any other complaints to the solicitor’s regulatory bodies, such as the SRA (Solicitors Regulation Authority) must have already been addressed. Any complaints outcomes upheld by the regulatory body, and notified to Resolution will be referred to their Practice Standards panel, who will consider whether membership should be terminated.
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