UK

New Legal Ombudsman warns rip-off lawyers

Lady Justice at the Old Bailey
Image caption The Legal Ombudsman can authorise compensation of up to £30,000

Lawyers who bring the industry into disrepute by charging huge prices for services will no longer get away with it, the new Legal Ombudsman has said.

The independent service for complaints about lawyers in England and Wales starts its work on Tuesday.

Chief Ombudsman Adam Sampson said he would crack down on those lawyers who choose profit over good service.

But consumer group Which? said the new body's powers, including awarding up to £30,000 compensation, were not enough.

Mr Sampson said: "One of our important jobs is to help protect the vast majority of lawyers who really want to do a good job from the small number of lawyers who are in it from bad motives and who can bring down the reputation of the profession as a whole."

'Name and shame'

Mr Sampson called the previous system of complaints "bewildering and very inefficient".

He said the industry's Legal Complaints Service and previous bodies had had a "woeful record" on the handling of complaints.

However, Martyn Hocking, editor of Which?, said: "The Legal Ombudsman has a cap on the amount of compensation it can force solicitors to pay back of £30,000. It's questionable whether that is high enough."

He also called on the Ombudsman to "name and shame" by publishing complaints data, as the Financial Ombudsman has recently started doing after years of lobbying.

Mr Hocking said: "The Legal Ombudsman needs to be able to collate that data and definitely needs to be able to name and shame."

The Legal Ombudsman predicts it will deal with more than 100,000 cases a year.

The body was set up under the Legal Services Act 2007 to simplify the system and make sure consumers had access to an independent expert to resolve complaints.

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