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Legal Services Board announces members of the Office for Legal Complaints

03 February 2009

The Legal Services Board (LSB) has today announced the members of the new Office for Legal Complaints (OLC). The six appointments follow the confirmation by the Justice Select Committee of Elizabeth France as OLC Chair on 28 October 2008.

The OLC will be a new organisation to develop and administer an independent ombudsman scheme to deal with complaints by consumers about legal services.

David Edmonds, LSB Chair, said:

“Making sure that consumers have access to swift and effective redress mechanisms when they have legitimate complaints about their lawyers is a primary objective of the new regulatory framework. Whilst most lawyers provide an excellent service, there are inevitably occasions when things go wrong. The OLC will ensure that there is a place for aggrieved consumers to go if attempts to sort things out directly with their lawyer fail."

“The experienced Board announced today is uniquely equipped to build the new organisation and deliver a first-class ombudsman scheme.”

Elizabeth France, OLC Chair, commented:

“I am delighted by the wealth of experience that the Board members will bring to the OLC. Collectively we shall work to improve the experience both of consumers of legal services and those lawyers who find themselves subject to complaint.”

The members are:

Margaret Doyle

An independent mediator and a consultant in alternative dispute resolution (ADR), she is currently a non-executive director of The Ombudsman Service Ltd and the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education. She has carried out research and consultancy projects on ADR and access to justice for, among others, the Public Law Project, Advice Services Alliance and National Consumer Council (now Consumer Focus), and is currently a consultant researcher with the Public Law Project on a Nuffield-funded empirical study of mediation and judicial review.

Tony Foster

Previously a Director of ICI Chemicals & Polymers Ltd and Chief Executive of ICI Chlorchemicals Business, he became a full-time member of the Criminal Cases Review Commission from 1997 to 2006. He is currently a member of the Council of the Competition Commission, a non-executive director of the Government Agency, Animal Health, a member of the Financial Protection Committee of the Solicitors Regulation Authority and a member of the Disciplinary Committee of the Institute of Chartered Accountants.

Brian Woods-Scawen CBE

A non-executive Chairman or Board member of a number of organisations in the private and public sectors. Amongst his appointments, he is Chairman of West Bromwich Building Society, a non-executive Board member of the Department for Business and Enterprise, a member of the Committee on Standards in Public Life and Treasurer of Warwick University. He is also a strategic adviser to a firm of solicitors. A Chartered Accountant, he was formerly Chairman of PricewaterhouseCoopers and a member of the PwC Global Board. At PwC, Brian was founding editor of the firm's annual Survey of Financial Management in Law Firms.

Rosemary Carter

A solicitor, she has worked in private practice in central London and East Anglia for thirty years and is also a trained mediator. She is a non-executive director of the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission, a member of the RICS Surveyors Ombudsman Scheme Board and a trustee of the charity, Gingerbread. Previously she was a member of the Law Society Council, Nursing and Midwifery Council and Civil Mediation Council.

Professor Mary Seneviratne

A solicitor, she is currently Director of Research and Head of the Centre for Legal Research at Nottingham Law School. She is an independent member of the Validation Committee of the British and Irish Ombudsman Association. As a leading authority on ombudsmen in the UK, she has conducted extensive research into complaints handling, alternative dispute resolution and legal services provision.

David Thomas

Qualified as a solicitor in England and Wales in 1969 and as a solicitor in Ireland in 1991, he led a firm of lawyers with offices in Liverpool and London. He has lectured on practice management, quality, commercial contracts and competitive tendering. Previously the Banking Ombudsman, since 2005 he has been Corporate Director and Principal Ombudsman at the Financial Ombudsman Service responsible for corporate policy, which includes: legislation and rules; relations with government, regulators and the European Commission; corporate planning; and cases with wider implications.

The new members, who will together bring experience in the legal sector, alternative dispute resolution, regulation and academia, have each been appointed for a three-year term from 1 February 2009 and will formally take up post on 1 July 2009.

Notes for editors:

  1. The appointment of the Office for Legal Complaints is the next step in the implementation of the Legal Services Act 2007.
  2. The Act set the stage for wide-ranging reforms to the provision and regulation of legal services in England and Wales and establishes the OLC to administer an ombudsman scheme that will deal with all consumer complaints about legal services.
  3. The OLC will be independent from government and the legal profession. It will be a public body sponsored by the Ministry of Justice. The chair and other board members will be responsible for the design and outlook of the organisation, for appointing the Chief Ombudsman and for approving the scheme rules for submission to the Legal Services Board. The OLC will become fully operational by no later than the end of 2010.
  4. Schedule 15 of the Act requires the LSB to appoint the members of the Board, which must have a majority of lay members.
  5. For more information, please contact the Legal Services Board on 020 7271 0072.