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We asked the legal practitioner directors of each of the 35 incorporated legal practices
which participated in the complaints management systems survey in May-June 2009 to
give us their feedback shortly after we posted the survey results and 22 of them got back
to us by 20 July 2009. We have published a separate report setting out their feedback in
quantitative terms (under the heading CMS-survey-manager-feedback-200709). This
report summarises and discusses their feedback including the comments they made in the
free text boxes that accompanied some of the survey questions. It should be read in
conjunction with the quantitative report.

The feedback is encouraging. We note that:

    14 or two-thirds of the 22 legal practitioner directors who gave us their feedback said
    the complaints management systems survey was either helpful or very helpful to them
    personally in assessing their firm’s complaints management systems. Seven of them
    said it was neither helpful nor unhelpful and only 1 of them said it was unhelpful;

    16 or three–quarters of the 22 legal practitioner directors said that participating in the
    survey was a useful exercise for their firm and 14 or two-thirds of them believe that
    they will change their firm’s complaint management systems as a result of completing
    the survey and considering the Commission’s audit report;

    11 of the 14 legal practitioner directors who said that participating in the survey was a
    useful exercise for their firm said that it was useful because it ensured that their staff
    had greater awareness of complaint management; 7 of them because it improved the
    visibility of and access to their firm’s complaints management policies and procedures;
    and 6 because it would help them use complaints as a management tool for identifying
    systemic issues within their firm; and

    20 or all but 1 of the 22 legal practitioner directors said that the audit/survey had
    potential as a mechanism for helping law firms implement and maintain effective
    complaints management policies and procedures.

We thanked the legal practitioner directors who responded to our feedback survey for
taking the time to give us their feedback and we asked them ‘is there anything else you
would like to say?’ Two of them responded as follows and a third sent us an unsolicited
comment by email (the last of the three comments below):

    ‘I found the results more useful than actually completing the survey!’

    ‘the survey was conducted professionally and the results collated are of assistance’

    ‘I just wanted to thank you and your team for your proactive approach in assisting
    firms step up to the mark on complaints management. Clearly we have a lot of work to

    do, and your work has provided me with some great ideas on preparing the materials
    we need to ensure everyone understands our complaints management procedures.’

We also asked them whether ‘expecting firms to undertake a survey (such as the
complaint management survey) annually as a mandatory regulatory requirement be too
great a regulatory burden?’ We gave them the opportunity to expand on their ‘yes’ or ‘no’
answer by commenting further in a free text box. The results:

    14 or two-thirds of them answered ‘yes’ and 7 or one-third of them answered ‘no’.

    4 of them commented further, as follows:

    o   ‘I just feel that there is a fair amount of paperwork as there is’

    o   ‘it's difficult to get lawyers to fill in forms! Perhaps if it were voluntary and [there
        was] a compulsory one every two years?’

    o   ‘the difficulty we had was trying to get the staff to answer the survey. We asked
        them at least three times to do so. Because we were not aware of who responded
        at the time, we found only about 30% of our staff responded. If we had some
        feedback we might have been able to encourage more to participate.’

    o   ‘the loss of productivity is immense. A trust account audit does not impact on as
        many members of a firm as this did [and] the younger members of staff and the
        administrative staff were frightened that they would give a "wrong answer" and get
        us, the directors, in trouble’.

We are struck by the fact that 14 or two-thirds of the 22 legal practitioners who gave us
their feedback said it would be imposing too great a regulatory burden to require law firms
to complete a web-based survey annually – we are struck because the same majority of
them agreed that completing the survey was both helpful to them personally and a useful
exercise for their firm, and because all but 1 of them acknowledged its potential to help
firms implement and maintain appropriate management systems.

It seems to us that the acknowledged benefits that flow from the 20-30 minutes each (or
most) of the firm’s people spend completing the survey compensate for the ‘loss of

Certainly we recognise the cost-benefit tension and the need to keep compliance costs to a
minimum. That is why we have designed the web-based surveys specifically to assist law
firms reflect upon and improve their management systems and specifically to be consistent
with the Administrative Review Council’s best practice principle that compliance costs
should be kept proportionate to the potential significance of the information we’re seeking
to obtain.

We note that the cost-benefit equation takes on a whole new complexion when firms
subtract the cost not from the time they expect fee earners and other staff to put towards
billable work but from the time they set aside (and that the Legal Profession Act envisages
they should set aside) for professional development, management and systems reviews
and other non-billable activities. And we note in this regard that the majority of the law
firms which completed the complainants management systems survey say that they do in
fact set aside time for non-billable activities of these kinds (including as it happens annual
complaints management training).

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