Chair, Office for Legal Complaints

The Legal Services Act 2007 required the Legal Services Board (LSB) to establish the Office for Legal Complaints (OLC) to administer an independent ombudsman scheme to resolve complaints by consumers about legal services. The scheme is known as the Legal Ombudsman.

The OLC is independent from government and the legal profession and is an arm’s length body of the Ministry of Justice (MoJ). The Board of the OLC is appointed by and accountable to the LSB, which can set performance targets, and which approves its annual budget. There are further accountabilities to the MoJ.

The OLC’s costs are met by a combination of a levy paid by approved regulators and case fees charged to legal services providers.

The LSB was also established under the Legal Services Act 2007. Working with the approved regulators – and with the OLC – the LSB is responsible for ensuring that the highest standards of competence, conduct and service in the legal profession are maintained for the benefit of individual consumers and the public generally.

Looking ahead, the LSB is keen to see the OLC build a distinct public profile based on the wealth of useful information that the organisation holds about users’ experiences of legal services. To do this well, OLC will need confidence that its technology is fully operational and supports the business, that its staff are well-motivated and that performance is evaluated by a robust balanced scorecard.

Based in central Birmingham, the OLC currently comprises four lay and two non-lay members and a lay Chair. The Legal Ombudsman service has over 250 staff and a budget of circa £12.3m for 2019/20.

The appointment is made by the LSB with the agreement of the Lord Chancellor and is subject to a pre-appointment scrutiny hearing by the Justice Select Committee. The preferred candidate will be required to attend training in advance of the pre-appointment scrutiny hearing.

  • Responsibilities of the OLC include:
    • Administering the Legal Ombudsman scheme, which considers complaints about lawyers. This includes: developing Scheme Rules, which set out the detailed jurisdiction of the scheme, how complaints should be made, what will be considered in determining the complaint and when respondents will be charged a case fee, amongst many other things. Scheme Rules must be approved by the LSB and, for case fees, the Lord Chancellor also;
    • Ensuring that the performance of the ombudsman scheme meets statutory and other performance related objectives;
    • Appointing ombudsmen – the OLC appoints the Chief Ombudsman, and other ombudsmen, with the consent of the Chief Ombudsman; there is currently a team of 15 ombudsmen (including the Chief Ombudsman). The OLC determines the terms of appointment and remuneration of ombudsmen and staff of the service. The current Chief Ombudsman and Chief Executive is Rebecca Marsh, who took up post in January 2018;
    • Employing other staff necessary to carry out the functions of the OLC and the ombudsman scheme;
    • Establishing any sub-committees deemed necessary to assist with the effective discharge of its functions;
    • Entering into appropriate arrangements with the LSB and MoJ to ensure co-operation between the three organisations;
    • Reporting to the LSB on the performance of the ombudsman scheme, including against any performance measures set by the LSB;
    • Submitting a projected budget at the start of each financial year to the LSB for approval;
    • Establishing reciprocal relationships with approved regulators with regard to information sharing.
  • The Role of Chair - Overall Objectives
    As Chair of the OLC, you will report to the Chair of the LSB and through the LSB to Parliament via an annual report laid before Parliament by the Lord Chancellor.

    The overall objectives are to lead the OLC Board in the effective administration of the Ombudsman scheme for complaints about legal service in England and Wales. You will have a key role in developing approaches to ensure that complaints are dealt with efficiently and effectively.
  • The Role of Chair - On-going Responsibilities

    As Chair of the OLC Board, you will have responsibility for:

    • The strategic direction of the OLC and ensuring that the organisation is fulfilling its statutory duty as an ombudsman scheme against a background of good governance, evidence-based decision-making, proportionate interventions, cost-effective use of resources and the successful performance of the ombudsman scheme against agreed performance targets;
    • Leading liaison with the Chair of LSB and the Ministry of Justice with regard to setting performance standards, monitoring and reporting protocols, ensuring effectiveness and efficiency and agreeing on-going reporting arrangements as required;
    • Protecting the independence of the Ombudsman in relation to the decisions taken; 
    • Appointing the Chief Ombudsman and any other Ombudsman, as appropriate; 
    • Setting the right culture for the organisation;
    • Keeping under review and proposing any changes to the rules and policy statements governing the way the ombudsman scheme operates; 
    • Following the procedures governing the relationship between the OLC and the approved regulators and licensing authorities; 
    • Maintaining trust and confidence in the OLC with key stakeholders;
    • Acting as an ambassador for the OLC and the ombudsman scheme, promoting and publicising its role by representing it externally in delivering speeches and contributing to debates at conferences and in committees;
    • Ensuring compliance with the general guidelines laid down by government relating to public bodies and ensuring that OLC fulfils any statutory or administrative requirements relating to financial accountability;
    • Working effectively with the Chief Ombudsman, non-executive members and staff team to provide strong leadership to the OLC to ensure it adheres to the principles of good governance and to ensure proper accounts are kept.
  • Person Specification and Eligibility Criteria

    Your application will be assessed on the basis of the evidence you provide. This evidence should include specific examples of proven experience against the selection criteria listed under Experience and knowledge. These responses will be further developed and discussed with those applicants invited for interview, together with the criteria listed under Skills and abilities.

    Experience and knowledge
    Collectively, the OLC Board needs to be able to cover a wide range of experience. 

    For the role as Chair, the appointment panel will be looking for evidence of an outstanding track record of transformational Board level leadership within a substantial operational organisation. This may have been gained in the private, public or third sectors and enabled experience to be acquired in the following areas: 

    • Proven track record in – and focus on – delivering improvements in customer satisfaction and redress;
    • Improving an organisation’s performance through the use and development of technology, such as sophisticated case management systems;  
    • Setting an organisation's strategy; 
    • Challenging, guiding, supporting and holding to account an executive team for its performance;  
    • Commitment to people and creating a culture of positive productivity;
    • Building constructive relationships and productive partnerships with a wide variety of key stakeholders; 
    • Representing an organisation to a wide range of external audiences and being publicly accountable for its activities; 
    • Working with Government, regulators and other influential institutions;
    • Feeding back learning to support change;
    • Sound understanding of corporate governance, including experience of financial management (establishing budgets and monitoring and managing spend). 

    Expertise in a range of areas relevant to the OLC’s work, including consumer affairs, customer operations, legal services provision, complaints handling and ombudsman schemes would also be valuable.
    Skills and abilities
    The following criteria will be explored further at interview. They need not be directly addressed in your written application:

    • Excellent communication, influencing, and relationship management skills, including the ability to motivate people; 
    • Commitment to diversity and equality of opportunity;
    • Willingness to take a stand; 
    • Strong intellect and sound judgment;
    • Politically ‘savvy’; 
    • High level of credibility, probity and integrity; 
    • Good understanding of the purposes of the OLC, its opportunities and challenges; 
    • Working style and suitability for non-executive work.

    Diversity and Equality of Opportunity
    Diversity and equality of opportunity is something both the LSB and OLC care passionately about. The LSB and OLC encourage applications from all sections of the community and from people of diverse ages, experience and backgrounds, people with disabilities. They want to explore the widest possible pool of talent for this important appointment.

    The Chair of the OLC must be a lay person in accordance with the Legal Services Act 2007. As part of the application process, you will be asked to confirm that you meet the lay requirements. 

    A lay person is a person who is not and has never been:

    1. An authorised person in relation to an activity which is a reserved legal activity. For these purposes the following are authorised people: 

    • a barrister; 
    • a solicitor; 
    • a public notary; 
    • a licensed conveyancer; 
    • a person granted a certificate issued by the Institute of Legal Executives authorising the person to practise as a legal executive; 
    • a registered patent attorney, within the meaning given by section 275(1) of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (c. 48); 
    • a registered trade mark attorney, within the meaning of the Trade Marks Act 1994 (c. 26); or 
    • a person granted a right of audience or a right to conduct litigation in relation to any proceedings by virtue of section 27(2) (a) or section 28(2)(a) of the Courts and Legal Services Act 1990 (c.41) (rights of audience and rights of litigation);

    2. An authorised person (within the meaning given in section 31 of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (authorised persons)) in relation to regulated claims management activity (within the meaning given by section 417(1) of that Act (definitions)); 

    3. An advocate in Scotland; 

    4. A solicitor in Scotland; 

    5. A member of the Bar of Northern Ireland; 

    6. A solicitor of the Court of Judicature of Northern Ireland. 

  • Application Process, Full Recruitment Packs and Equalities Monitoring Form

    Please submit the following:

    • A copy of your CV (maximum 4 pages);
    • A supporting statement (maximum 2 pages) explaining how you meet each of the criteria set out under ‘Experience and knowledge’ in the person specification. Please provide specific and detailed examples to demonstrate how your knowledge and skills matches each of the criteria. 
    • Equalities Monitoring Form (downloadable below).

    Please include the names and contact details of two referees. Please note referees will be contacted if you are shortlisted for interview. We will seek your permission prior to approaching referees.

    Documentation can either be submitted via the WIG website (using the Apply Now button at the top of this page) or by email to Patrick Reihill, Head of Talent via [email protected] 

    For more comprehensive information about the appointment, please review the below attachments:

    OLC Chair Information Pack.pdf OLC WIG Recruitment Pack (Short) November 2019.pdf WIG Equalities Monitoring Form.docx


    The deadline for applications is Midday, Wednesday 4 December 2019

    • Once you have submitted your application, its receipt will be acknowledged.
    • Your application will be assessed against the criteria and your experience for the post.
    • By the end of the week commencing 16 December 2019, the panel will aim to have decided who will be invited to preliminary interview, taking account of the evidence provided in your application. You will be advised of the outcome of your application by email by 20 December 2019.
    • Preliminary interviews will be undertaken by WIG Talent in either Birmingham or London in early January 2020
    • The panel will meet to shortlist the final candidates to be called for final interview on 16 January 2020. You will be advised of the outcome and whether or not you have been shortlisted for final panel interview by 17 January 2020.
    • Final panel interviews will be held on Monday 10 February 2020 at the LSB’s offices in central London. The panel will question you about your experience and expertise and ask specific questions to explore whether you meet the specified essential criteria.
    • Please note that travel expenses will not be payable for attending interviews. 
    • The preferred candidate for the post will be subject to pre-appointments scrutiny by the Justice Select Committee prior to appointment. The date of the hearing is to be confirmed, but is expected to take place in February or March 2020. 
    • Such hearings will be non-binding but the Justice Secretary will consider the committee’s conclusions before deciding whether to proceed with the appointment, in discussion with the Chair of the Legal Services Board. 
    • Prior to the Select Committee hearing, the preferred candidate will be expected to undertake some preparatory work with Legal Services Board and Ministry of Justice officials.
    • If you are successful, you will receive a letter formally appointing you. If you are unsuccessful, you will be notified. 
    • For a confidential discussion relating to the appointment, please contact Patrick Reihill, Head of Talent at The Whitehall & Industry Group, via 0207 222 1166 or [email protected]