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LeO brings first enforcement proceedings

17 August 2011

The Legal Ombudsman has brought its first enforcement proceedings against law firms which refuse to pay compensation.

In the first case, at Birmingham County Court, a spokesman for LeO said a district judge ordered the firm to pay £2,650 compensation to a client, as LeO had demanded, plus interest.

The firm was also ordered to pay LeO’s costs of £1,215. The client complained that the firm had paid money to a third party without authorisation.

In a second case at the county court, solicitors agreed to settle the matter at the door of the court and pay their client £5,704 compensation.

LeO said the firm had mismanaged work for a property owner and, as a result, was ordered to pay compensation.

“When the firm failed to comply, the ombudsman issued proceedings for the court’s permission to enforce the decision as if it were a court judgment,” the spokesman said.

“The firm initially tried to argue that the decision was defective but, when the ombudsman produced the relevant legal materials, at the eleventh hour agreed to settle the matter and pay our costs of £1,000.”

Adam Sampson, chief legal ombudsman, said: “These are the first such enforcement proceedings we’ve brought under the Legal Services Act 2007.

“It’s regrettable that we had to take these steps, and that the firms didn’t act more promptly to bring matters to a close for the complainants.

“The cases are a reminder that ombudsman decisions, once accepted by complainants, are binding. Lawyers need to remember that our decisions are enforceable through the courts and that failure to comply promptly can mean an unnecessary expense.”

“Those who don’t comply are likely to have to pay costs ordered by the courts, and risk being referred by us on conduct grounds to their regulatory body.”

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