LSB oversight of the Office for Legal Complaints (OLC)

This page describes how the LSB oversees the Office for Legal Complaints (OLC) – the Board of the Legal Ombudsman.

If you’re unhappy with the service provided by your lawyer and want to make a complaint we explain how to do this here.

LSB’s oversight of the OLC

The LSB monitors how the OLC is assuring itself that the Legal Ombudsman is performing.

The LSB does not have a direct role in monitoring the performance of the Legal Ombudsman. Oversight by the LSB is not designed to duplicate the work done by OLC.

A Memorandum of Understanding describes how the LSB and the OLC work together.

Both organisations have a statutory relationship with the Ministry of Justice. The Tripartite Operating Protocol describes how the OLC, LSB and Ministry of Justice work together.

The LSB has a variety of functions, powers and duties in relation to the OLC including:

  • Monitoring performance
  • Approving the OLC Budget
  • Appointing OLC Board members
  • Consenting to scheme rules

Monitoring performance

The Legal Ombudsman’s website contains information about its performance.

The LSB monitors performance through the following activities:

  • Receiving voluntary assurance letters from the OLC Chair
  • Reviewing a detailed monthly performance dataset provided by the Legal Ombudsman
  • Reviewing OLC Board and ARAC papers, and attending ARAC meetings
  • Attending the performance part of the Business Assurance Meetings between the Ministry of Justice and the OLC
  • A regular schedule of senior level meetings with the OLC and Legal Ombudsman

Voluntary assurance letters

The OLC Chair updates and assures the LSB on the performance of the Legal Ombudsman in the form of voluntary assurance letters after each OLC Board meeting.

These letters set out the OLC Board’s strategic assessment of the performance of the Legal Ombudsman. The letters are available on this page.

Approving the OLC Budget

Schedule 15 to the Legal Services Act 2007 requires the OLC, before the start of each financial year, to adopt an annual budget that has been approved by the LSB.

The approval process for the OLC budget is set out in the Tripartite Operating Protocol between the OLC, LSB and Ministry of Justice.

The approval process involves:

  • The LSB setting draft budget acceptance criteria for the OLC budget in August. The acceptance criteria form the basis of the LSB’s assessment of the OLC’s application.
  • The OLC submits a draft budget and business plan to the LSB, which the Board considers at its November meeting. The acceptance criteria are then finalised.
  • The OLC publicly consults on the proposed budget and business plan.
  • The OLC takes into account the responses to its consultation and submits its final budget and business plan proposal to the LSB.
  • The Board considers the OLC’s application at its March meeting and notifies the OLC of the outcome in a decision letter.
  • The OLC is required to adopt a budget approved by the LSB by 1 April 2021.

The Secretary of State for Justice must also approve the OLC’s budget.

Information on the process to approve the OLC 2020/21 and 2021/22 budgets can be found here.

Varying the budget in-year

Schedule 15, para 23(1) of the Act provides that the OLC may, with the approval of the Board, vary the budget for a financial year any time after its adoption.

The LSB and OLC will agree an appropriate process on a case-by-case basis.

Further information about historical applications is here.

Appointing Board members

The LSB appoints members of the OLC Board. The Lord Chancellor must approve the appointment of the OLC Chair.

The LSB Chair undertakes an annual performance review of the OLC Chair.

Elisabeth Davies is the chair of the OLC and Paul McFadden is the Chief Ombudsman.

You can find out about OLC Board members and Legal Ombudsman management team here.

Consenting to Scheme Rules

The Scheme Rules are the framework that describes how the Legal Ombudsman resolves disputes.

These include:

  • who can complain to the OLC
  • what sorts of complaints the OLC will and will not look at
  • the procedures for how the scheme will operate in practice.

Under section 155 of the Act, the OLC must obtain the consent of the LSB before making rules.

Current scheme rules

Previous applications to change the OLC Scheme Rules can be found here.