Post by Patrick Torsney on Nov 14, 2006 10:03:49 GMT
PLEASE NOTE THAT THE LSC ARE NOT NOW IMPLEMENTING THE 'NEW' UNIFIED CONTRACT SPECIFICATION UNTIL OCTOBER 2007 AFTER IT HAS BEEN CONSULTED ON FURTHER - A FURTHER CONSULTATION DRAFT OF THE SPECIFICATION WHICH MAY BE DIFFERENT TO THIS VERSION SHOULD BE PUBLISHED IN FEBRUARY. THE CURRENT (2003) SPECIFICATION WILL REMAIN IN FORCE, WITH MINOR AMENDMENT, UNTIL OCTOBER
THE DISCUSSIONS BELOW RELATE TO THE CONSULTATION DRAFT THAT WAS FIRST PROPOSED AND THEN WITHDRAWN PENDING THE FURTHER CONSULTATION OUTLINED ABOVE
Part 1: Complaining clients previously helped by post?
This isn’t a crossword clue but a look at some of the requirements contained within the consultation version of the Unified Contract, Specification section
This piece is not exhaustive – you need to read the full Specification - but should give readers some food for thought on what the LSC is proposing and the changes in practice that may be necessary
The highlighted paragraph numbering below refers to the paragraph as listed within the Specification
I will summarise further sections as and when time allows
“You may be required by us to provide specified information to Clients or to other persons contacting your organisation in such form as we may direct."
“The provision of such information to Clients will not be claimable by you as part of the costs of Contract Work."
The question is what kind of information? And whatever kind of information it is, why should it not be paid for? It appears that the LSC’s desire to move to a procurement model with it as the purchaser of services has gone a little to its head. It doesn’t give it carte blanche to set any agenda it likes and bend (or break) common perceptions of what might be considered reasonable requests of other parties to a contract. There are many deal breakers within the Specification section unfortunately, this is only a minor one
“If you have provided Controlled Work to a Client and that Client chooses to instruct another Supplier with regard to the same matter or issue, you are required, on request from the new Supplier and only with the consent of the Client (evidence of which may be supplied by the new Supplier), to give to the new Supplier the Client’s file, or a copy, and reasons for the termination of the retainer, as soon as practicable and in any event, no later than seven days from the date of the request.”
How is this monitored - what happens if you are the one requesting it and the other supplier doesn’t provide it?
This and a couple of other provisions later in the Spec show a tightening up of the rules around previous legal help. The later rules in particular will have a significant impact on organisations in terms of structuring their initial interviews and when they actually begin to work for a client and get paid for that work
This section says that where there is any conflict between the general provisions of the Specification and the Category Specific Provisions in Section 9 then, section 9 shall have precedence. The only problem here is that the LSC has not published section 9 so how do the advice networks, who have been asked to comment within this consultation, really know what they are commenting on?
You can’t accept a postal application for client who needs assistance only with Help at Court. Why not?
“Where Controlled Work has been given for the same matter from another Supplier within the six months preceding the application, you must obtain the consent of the Client to contact the previous Supplier on his/her behalf as soon as practicable in writing to:
(a) Confirm the reasons for the termination of retainer. (b) Request a transfer or copy of the file.
In the event that the Client refuses to give you consent to contact his/her previous Supplier, then you may not provide Controlled Work for that Client and may not make any Claim for payment in respect of any such work under this Contract."
Says that you can’t start work until you have seen the file and decided it’s alright to continue. However, it does say that where you need to “protect the clients position” or “meet a court deadline” then you may do the work in the interim and claim for it. However, the LSC “shall monitor the number of your cases that fall into this category and if this is high we may carry out investigations and take appropriate action.”
Out of curiosity, how will it be monitored and how broad is this “appropriate action”?
So, you must request a copy of the file from the previous supplier. This leaves you in the position of not being able to claim for any of the work done unless you feel you can justify it on what appear to be urgent or exceptional grounds, the hassle of arranging an appointment, writing a letter or contacting the previous supplier, any preliminary advice in the initial appointment that you have given, until you receive the file and you decide it is acceptable for you to continue
It appears here that the LSC is basing this on an assumption that work will not begin until the file is obtained. This is highly unrealistic and will leave organisations in the position of needing to insert another level of bureaucracy into their initial appointment processes
If the client is dissatisfied with the services of the previous supplier then you must “provide the Client with assistance in setting out his/her complaint in writing to the Law Society, the OISC, the Advice Services Alliance or any appropriate regulator of professional standards of the former Supplier. A copy of the complaint should also be provided to our Regional Office.”
Why ASA I'm not sure. ASA isn't a regulatory body and I really can't see it being too happy with or even knowing what to do if receiving such correspondence. On a general note it appears to be another example of a consultation document that has been thrown together, cut and pasted from lots of other sources, with little or no thought to the earlier LSC soundbyte of 'we want a better and less intrusive relationhip where we and suppliers work together in a trusting and mutually beneficial relationship'
It appears from 2.28 that pursuing this ‘complaint’ can be counted as part of the matter the client approached you about. However, is it not the LSC’s intention, and wouldn’t it make more sense, if it constituted a matter in its own right? Otherwise the fact that the client had a bad service elsewhere would mean that it would impact on your own ability to deal with their true legal problem within the time constraints of fixed fee system
If the LSC does not allow it to be dealt with as a matter start in its own right then the client is going to get hit from both sides or, complaints from clients about other providers may be brushed under the carpet to avoid the cost of assisting a client pursue them
Refusing Contract Work on the basis of likely cost
“With a payment regime based on Standard Fees and Graduated Fees there is a risk that suppliers will decline to take on more expensive cases because they will not recover their full costs on that particular case. This is not permitted under this Contract. You may not refuse to undertake work which is within the scope of your Contract and which you have the appropriate skills and capacity to carry out because you believe that your costs are likely to exceed any Standard Fee or Graduated Fee you would be entitled to claim for that work.“
The LSC is obviously worried about this and it appears to be another example of the draconian paranoia that it is introducing into contracting; it puts the organisation into the situation of excessive justification when deciding to close a case and then having those justifications questioned
Please feel free to comment on these proposals by replying to this message
2.27 complaints, why do the LSC want a copy of the letter of complaint for? Are they going to monitor complaints? How are they going to monitor them? Will it just be the number of complaints or will they also monitor the outcomes? They say "A copy of the complaint should be sent to our office" Do they mean the whole complaint file or just the initial letter?
Post by Patrick Torsney on Nov 15, 2006 7:45:42 GMT
If the complaint were against a contracted supplier then it would appear likely that the LSC would use any letter of complaint against an organisation as part of its monitoring of that organisation. Whether it would involve itself in an individual complaint process seems unlikely, unless the complaint were severe; it would be more likely that these complaints would be used as part of the overall management of the contract of the organisation e.g. feeding into discussions between LSC Relationship Managers and the organisation's Liaison Manager
Depending on the nature of the complaint against any contracted supplier, or the number/frequency of complaints, it may also prompt the LSC into taking some form of further action against the organisation concerned
Again, it isn't clear what would happen if the complaint was against an non-contracted organisation - probably at the very least the LSC would use it to ensure that the organisation assisting the client make the complaint followed the procedure correctly
This is just one of many requirements within the Specification which will need some flesh on the bones - assuming it makes it into the final contract of course
Bear in mind that these are my initial views only - food for thought - and have not yet been confirmed as an accurate interpretation by the LSC. CLS Support will be working to identify any requirements that are unclear and will then publish written guidance in briefings or email bulletins once everyone is clearer on what form the final contract will take
Seems perverse to me that they should want to monitor the amount of complaints an organisation gets. Many a time I have taken a client on who turns out to be a serial complainer and revells in the attention. If we get a couple of those (which happens all the time), then we'll look as though we get loads of complaints and appear bad.
We send out feedback questionnaires to all clients asking them for their concerns and how we can improve our service. Concerns may be things like a short delay for initial contact for example. Would these have to be treated as a complaint? Are they going to define what they consider a valid complaint is, or at what level of seriousness a complaint should be reported to them?
Post by Mr Fiona T. Wardle on Dec 14, 2006 11:17:57 GMT
"Complaints" are always a bit tricky. I agree with your comments on what will be construed as a complaint, as opposed to say a mere "negative comment"? And shouldn't "complaints" be balanced by "positive" feedback?
We always send out client q's with closure letters, and very few get returned to us, even though we send SAEs with them all.