Client complaints

Client grievance procedure

  1. Overview [45 CFR § 1621]
    Legal Aid of North Carolina, Inc. (LANC) has a client grievance procedure for applicants who are denied legal services and for clients who are not satisfied with how LANC staff are representing them. LANC wants to be accountable to those persons it is expected to serve and to provide legal assistance as required by its funders, including the Legal Service Corporation. This Client Grievance Procedure is intended for the use and benefit of LANC applicants and clients. This grievance procedure cannot be used by third parties who may have complaints about LANC. LANC intends for this procedure to foster effective communication and to help ensure, to the extent possible, the provision of an effective remedy for resolving complaints. Consistent with this procedure, LANC staff will develop appropriate materials, including forms, for use by applicants, clients, and staff.
    1. LANC shall establish a Client Grievance Committee, composed of 3 lawyer members and 2 client members from the LANC Board of Directors. In accordance with this procedure, the Committee will review appeals regarding complaints by applicants about the denial of legal assistance or complaints by clients about the manner or quality of legal assistance after attempts to resolve such complaints by appropriate staff have failed.
    2. LANC will employ various practical means to ensure that LANC applicants denied services and LANC clients dissatisfied with their representation know their rights under this complaint procedure and how a complaint may be filed timely. These methods are not exclusive, and management may utilize other practical means to achieve this purpose. Such means may include but are not limited to:
      1. The prominent posting of the notice attached to this policy (“How to File a Complaint”) in the waiting rooms of field offices. This notice will be in English (“How to File a Complaint”) and Spanish (“Como Hacer una Queja”) and provide information to applicants and clients on how to file a complaint about the denial of assistance or the manner or quality of legal assistance.
      2. The LANC Retainer Agreement will include a statement informing clients about their rights to complain to the managing attorney in a local office or project when a staff attorney is assigned to the case, to the regional manager when a managing attorney is assigned to the case, or to the deputy director of legal advocacy when a managing attorney of a special project or volunteer attorney is assigned to the case.
      3. The posting of a notice about the complaint procedure on the LANC website.
      4. As appropriate, LANC staff members will, in a timely manner, inform applicants or clients orally or in writing about how to file a complaint and the complaint procedure.
    3. All information furnished to LANC by an applicant for legal assistance or a client during representation shall be kept in the respective applicant or client file and treated as confidential.
    4. Applicants and clients may submit their initial complaints orally or in writing to the appropriate ombudsman, managing attorney, regional manager, or deputy director of legal advocacy. Applicants who have been denied legal services and wish to file a complaint must do so within fifteen (15) calendar days after being informed of said denial. Clients who have complaints about the manner or quality of legal services or representation and wish to file a complaint must do so at any time before a case is closed or within 15 calendar days after the case has been closed.
    5. Written complaints shall be submitted on forms provided by LANC that include a statement waiving confidentiality of the information provided. These forms and instructions will be available in English and Spanish versions. If any applicant or client refuses to sign the waiver included on the complaint forms, then the complaint will not be processed under this procedure.
    6. If the local office staff, supervisors or managers are unable to resolve the complaint in a manner acceptable to the applicant or client, then the applicant or client shall be informed about this grievance procedure and provided the attached forms including instructions on how to appeal to the executive director. Staff assigned to resolve the complaint will document all contacts and decisions related to the complaint and place in a designated file.
    7. The managing attorney, regional manager, deputy director of legal advocacy, or ombudsman will document in writing the nature of the complaint, the steps taken to resolve the same, and whether the applicant or client will appeal to the executive director. This complaint file will also include any other pertinent written information related to the complaint.
    8. When the deadlines in this procedure refer to calendar days and the last day to act falls on a designated holiday, Saturday, or Sunday, then the last day to act will be the following weekday.
    9. Any client or applicant who fails to comply with the deadlines set out in this procedure may request that the Executive Director waive those deadlines upon a showing of extraordinary circumstances substantiated by proper documentation. Within fourteen (14) calendar days of the receipt of such a request, the executive director in its discretion will render a decision. The executive director will reduce the decision to writing and send it to the client or applicant within five (5) business days. The client or applicant may appeal the executive director’s denial of waiver to the chair of the Client Grievance Committee who will review the executive director’s denial. Within fourteen (14) calendar days of the receipt of such a request, the chair in its discretion will render a decision. The chair will reduce the decision to writing and send it to the client or applicant within five (5) business days. This decision is final and cannot be appealed to the full LANC Board.
  2. Appeal of Applicant’s Complaint About Denial of Legal Assistance
    1. Appeal to Ombudsman
      1. If an applicant disagrees with the decision to deny assistance, then the applicant will be referred to the designated ombudsman to address the applicant’s complaint about the denial of assistance. The ombudsman may assist the applicant with submitting a written complaint form, if needed. The ombudsman will review the applicant’s complaint about the denial of services, discuss the same with the appropriate managing attorney to determine whether the reason for denial of services is supported by the current LANC Priorities. The ombudsman has no authority to reverse a decision based on an applicant’s eligibility for LANC services. The ombudsman will provide a written decision to the applicant within seven (7) calendar days after the assignment is made. If the applicant disagrees with the ombudsman’s decision, then the applicant may appeal by filing a written statement within fifteen (15) calendar days after the applicant has been notified of the decision. If appropriate, the ombudsman will assist the applicant with preparing the Appeal of Decision form (“Apelación del la Decisión” form).
    2. Appeal to Executive Director
      1. The written statement will be mailed or otherwise submitted to the Executive Director. The Executive Director or designee will confer with the applicant promptly and render a decision in writing to the applicant in a timely manner. The written decision will inform the applicant how to appeal the decision to the chair of the Client Grievance Committee and include a statement setting out the deadline for filing such an appeal. The appeal form attached to this procedure (Appeal of Decision) will be enclosed with the written decision.
    3. Appeal to Chair of Client Grievance Committee
      1. If the applicant disagrees with the Executive Director’s decision, then the applicant may appeal to the Chair of the Client Grievance Committee of the LANC Board by filing a written statement on the Appeal of Decision form within fifteen (15) calendar days of the date of the decision. If appropriate, the ombudsman will assist the applicant in completing the appeal form.
      2. The appeal will be forwarded to the Chair of the Client Grievance Committee, who will apply discretion to determine if it is practical for the Executive Director’s decision to be reviewed. If the Chair determines that it is not practical to review the Executive Director’s decision, then that decision will be final and cannot be appealed to the full LANC Board.
      3. If the Chair determines that it is practical to review the Executive Director’s decision, then the Chair will review the appeal by either conferring with the applicant or reviewing the applicant’s complaint file. The Chair has no authority to reverse a decision based on the applicant’s eligibility for LANC services. The Chair will send a written decision to the applicant within fourteen (14) calendar days after receipt of the appeal. The Chair’s decision is final and cannot be appealed to the full LANC Board.
    4. The Secretary of the LANC Board will maintain a complete record of each applicant appeal presented to the Chair of the Client Grievance Committee.
  3. Appeal of Client Complaint about Manner or Quality of Legal Assistance
    1. Appeal to Executive Director
      1. If a client disagrees with the response to the client’s complaint about the manner or quality of legal services or representation by the managing attorney, regional manager, or deputy director of legal advocacy, then the client may appeal by filing a written statement within fifteen (15) calendar days after the client has been notified of the response. If appropriate, the ombudsman will assist the client in preparing the Appeal of Decision form (“Apelación del la Decisión” form).
      2. The Appeal form will be mailed or otherwise submitted to the Executive Director. The Executive Director or designee will investigate the complaint promptly and the Executive Director will provide a decision in writing to the client in a timely manner. The written decision will inform the client about how to appeal and include a statement setting out the deadline for filing such an appeal to the Client Grievance Committee of the LANC Board. The appeal form attached to this policy [Appeal of Decision form (“Apelación del la Decisión” form)] will be enclosed with the written decision.
    2. Appeal to Client Grievance Committee
      1. If the client disagrees with the Executive Director’s decision, then the client may appeal that decision to the Client Grievance Committee of the LANC Board.
      2. The appeal will be forwarded by the Executive Director to the Chair of the Client Grievance Committee who will convene a meeting of the Client Grievance Committee within thirty (30) calendar days after receipt of the written statement appealing the Executive Director’s decision.
      3. The Committee will determine whether to allow the client to provide an oral statement on the matter or issue a decision based on the written statements and other information included in the client complaint file. If the client is not allowed to provide an oral statement, then the Committee must issue a decision within fourteen (14) calendar days after its meeting date. The Chair will reduce the decision to writing and send it to the client promptly. This decision is final and cannot be appealed to the full LANC Board.
      4. If the Committee elects to allow the client to provide an oral statement, then both client and affected LANC staff persons may present oral or written statements about the complaint. The client may be accompanied by another person. At its discretion, the Committee may elect to hear statements from the client and LANC staff by telephone or other means. If any members of the Client Grievance Committee are unable to participate, then the LANC Board Chair will designate other board members to attend the same. The Committee must render a decision within fourteen (14) calendar days after the hearing is closed. The Committee Chair will reduce the decision to writing and send it to the client promptly. This decision is final and cannot be appealed to the full LANC Board.
    3. The Secretary of the LANC Board will maintain a complete record of each client appeal presented to the Client Grievance Committee.

  4. Client Complaint about Manner or Quality of Legal Assistance by Volunteer Lawyer
    1. Clients who are referred to volunteer or contract attorneys through the LANC Private Attorney Involvement Program or its Volunteer Lawyer Program will be informed in the initial referral documents about their rights under this complaint process and how a complaint may be filed timely.
    2. Clients who are represented by volunteer or contract attorneys through the LANC Private Attorney Involvement Program or its Volunteer Lawyer Program and wish to file a complaint about the legal assistance provided by a private attorney may do so at any time before the volunteer or contract attorney closes the case or within fifteen (15) calendar days after the case has been closed. [“Complaint Form for Legal Aid Of North Carolina, Inc.”]
    3. Clients may submit their initial complaints orally or in writing to the managing attorney of the local office assigned to represent the client. This managing attorney will attempt to resolve the complaint in a manner acceptable to the client.
    4. If the managing attorney is unable to resolve the complaint in a manner acceptable to the client, then the client shall be informed about this grievance policy and provided the appeal form including instructions on how to appeal to the deputy director of legal advocacy.
    5. The managing attorney will document in writing the nature of the complaint, the steps taken to resolve the same, and whether the client will appeal to the deputy director of legal advocacy. This complaint file will also include any other pertinent written information related to the complaint.
    6. If a client disagrees with the local response to the client’s complaint about the representation or services provided, then the client may appeal by filing a written statement within fifteen (15) calendar days after the client has been notified of the response. If appropriate, the ombudsman will assist the client in preparing the Appeal of Decision form.
    7. The Appeal form will be mailed or otherwise submitted to the deputy director of legal advocacy who will investigate the complaint promptly and issue a decision in writing to the client in a timely manner. This decision is final and cannot be appealed to the LANC Board.
    8. A record will be maintained of all such client complaints involving private or contract attorneys through LANC’s Private Attorney Involvement Program or Volunteer Lawyer Program programs.

How to file a complaint with Legal Aid of North Carolina

Legal Aid of North Carolina wants to hear if you have any complaints about

  • our services or
  • being denied legal services.

Please ask to talk with the managing attorney about any concerns or questions.

You may telephone managing attorney at telephone number.

Also, you may submit your complaint in writing to:

Executive Director
Legal Aid of North Carolina
Post Office Box 26087
Raleigh, North Carolina 27611

Additional information about the complaint policy is found on our website.

How to complain about being denied legal services by Legal Aid of North Carolina, Inc.

  1. If you have been denied legal services you may make a complaint within fifteen (15) calendar days after being told that LANC will not represent you or that you are not eligible to receive legal services. You should tell the staff person that you want to file a complaint about the denial of legal services. If you are not satisfied with the staff person’s response, ask to speak with the managing attorney.
  2. The managing attorney will explain how to make a complaint about the denial of legal services. You may fill out a written form, Applicant Complaint about Denial of Assistance or you may ask the managing attorney for the ombudsman to help you fill out a written Complaint. The ombudsman is a LANC employee assigned to help clients with their complaints. The ombudsman will speak with you about your Complaint, review your file and speak with other staff persons. The ombudsman will give you a decision about your Complaint in writing. The decision will tell you the deadline for filing other appeals.
  3. If you are not satisfied with the ombudsman’s decision, then you may appeal to the LANC executive director on or before the deadline date. You will need to file the Appeal of Decision form. The ombudsman can help you fill out the appeal form, if necessary.
  4. When you appeal, the executive director will review your complaint and send you a written decision in a timely manner. This decision will tell you the deadline for filing another appeal.
  5. If you are not satisfied with the executive director’s decision, then you may appeal that decision to the chair of the Client Grievance Committee of the LANC Board of Directors by the deadline to appeal. You will need to fill out the Appeal of Decision form. The ombudsman can help you fill out the appeal form, if necessary. The chair will then decide whether it is practical to review the executive director’s decision. In the opinion of the chair, if a review of the decision is not practical, then the executive director’s decision will be final and cannot be appealed to the full LANC Board.
  6. If the chair finds that it is practical to review the executive director’s decision, then the chair will review the decision by either speaking with you or reviewing your file or both. The chair will send you a written decision within fourteen (14) calendar days after receiving the appeal. The chair’s decision is final and cannot be appealed to the full LANC Board.

How to complain about legal representation or services by Legal Aid of North Carolina, Inc.

  1. If you are not satisfied with the legal representation or services provided by Legal Aid of North Carolina, Inc. (LANC), then you may make a complaint at any time before your case is closed or within fifteen (15) calendar days after the case has been closed. You should tell the staff person that you want to file a complaint. If you are not satisfied with the staff person’s response, ask to speak with the managing attorney.
  2. The managing attorney will explain how you can make a complaint about LANC. You may make your complaint in person or by telephone to the managing attorney or you may fill out a written complaint form called Client Complaint about Legal Representation or Services. If you need help to fill out the complaint form, you may ask the managing attorney for help. The managing attorney will assign the LANC ombudsman to help you. The ombudsman is a LANC employee assigned to help clients with their complaints.
  3. The managing attorney will speak with you about your complaint, review your file and speak with other staff persons involved in your case. The managing attorney will make a decision about your complaint and give you that decision in writing. The decision will tell you the deadline for filing other appeals.
  4. If you disagree with the managing attorney’s decision, then you may appeal to the LANC executive director on or before the deadline date. You will need to file the Appeal of Decision form by the deadline date in the decision you receive. If you need help to fill out this form, tell the managing attorney who will have the LANC ombudsman help you
  5. The executive director will review your complaint promptly and make a decision. The executive director will send you a written decision in a timely manner. This decision will tell you the deadline for filing another appeal.
  6. If you disagree with the executive director’s decision, then you may appeal that decision to the Client Grievance Committee of the LANC Board of Directors by the deadline to appeal. You will need to fill out the Appeal of Decision form. The ombudsman can help you fill out the appeal form, if necessary.
  7. The Client Grievance Committee has two (2) members who are eligible clients of LANC and three (3) attorneys. Within thirty (30) calendar days after receiving your appeal, the Committee will meet and decide whether to have a hearing where you may tell your side and LANC staff may explain their side. This hearing may be by telephone or other means and you can bring another person with you. After the Committee ends the hearing, the Committee will send you a decision in writing within fourteen (14) calendar days. This decision is final and cannot be appealed to the full LANC Board.
  8. If the Committee decides not to have a hearing, then the Committee will send you a decision in writing within fourteen (14) calendar days after its meeting date. This decision is final and cannot be appealed to the full LANC Board.

How to complain about legal representation or services by a volunteer attorney.

  1. If you are not satisfied with the legal representation or services provided by a volunteer attorney, then you may make a complaint at any time before your case is closed or within fifteen (15) calendar days after the case has been closed. You should tell the staff person that you want to file a complaint. If you are not satisfied with the staff person’s response, ask to speak with the managing attorney.
  2. A managing attorney with Legal Aid of North Carolina, Inc. (LANC) will explain how you can make a complaint about the volunteer. You may make your complaint in person or by telephone to the managing attorney or you may fill out a written complaint form called Complaint Form for Legal Aid of North Carolina, Inc. If you need help to fill out this form, tell the managing attorney who will have the LANC ombudsman help you. The ombudsman is a LANC employee who is assigned to help clients with their complaints.
  3. The managing attorney will review your complaint. The managing attorney will make a decision about your complaint and give you that decision in writing. The decision will tell you the deadline for filing other appeals.
  4. If you disagree with the managing attorney’s decision, then you may appeal to the LANC deputy director of legal advocacy on or before the deadline date. You will need to file the Appeal of Decision form by the deadline date in the decision you receive. If you need help to fill out this form, tell the managing attorney who will have the LANC ombudsman help you.
  5. The deputy director of legal advocacy will review your complaint promptly and make a decision. The deputy director will send you a written decision in a timely manner. This decision is final and cannot be appealed.