The Legal Services Board (LSB) has set demanding, legally binding, performance targets for the Office for Legal Complaints (Legal Ombudsman) for the current year. The LSB is concerned that the Ombudsman’s performance may slip as it makes ‘significant internal and operational changes.’

The LSB has set the following targets for the year to 31 March 2016:

  • The number of cases resolved within 90 days must not fall below 90% in any month
  • The unit cost per case must not exceed £1,750 in any rolling quarter
  • The average satisfaction of complainants and lawyers must not fall below 40% in any quarter

The targets may be hard to achieve.  According to a report in the Law Society Gazette the Ombudsman’s most recent annual report showed that just 18% of complainants were satisfied in the final quarter of 2013.  In addition, the average cost per case was £1,950 in 2013-14 – well above the LSB’s new target.

The Ombudsman has also been ordered to set out its proposals for a comprehensive framework for KPIs and performance measures to apply from April 2016.

Sir Michael Pitt, Chairman of the LSB says that the Ombudsman has been a force for good since it opened its doors in October 2010, but that there is now a risk of current targets being missed and that inherent structural features are likely to prevent significant improvements in performance.

In response Steve Green, Chair, Office for Legal Complaints says that the Ombudsman has achieved significant savings by moving to new offices and has taken on the challenging process of implementing a new and much more capable Case Management System. “These are just the first steps in a process which will, over the coming months, refocus our organisation to enable us to deliver our wider strategic objectives.”

Lawyers must do everything they can to avoid complaints and resolve those that do occur quickly and efficiently says James Burgoyne, Director – Claims & Technical, Brunel Professional Risks.  “Professional indemnity insurers may want to know about service complaints when they are deciding whether or not to insure a law firm.  A poor track record will make it harder for firms to secure cost effective PI cover.”

The Legal Services Board’s letter and the Ombudsman’s response have been published here.