Who may complain?
Any person can make a complaint about a solicitor. There need not be any formal relationship between the solicitor and the complainant.
How is a complaint made?
All complaints about solicitors must be made to the Office of the Legal Services Commissioner.
The complaint must:
- be made in writing (but not email) within three years of the date on which the conduct complained about occurred
- identify the complainant
- identify the individual against whom the complaint is made, and
- describe the alleged conduct that is the subject of the complaint
The Commissioner has the discretion to deal with a complaint about conduct that occurred more than three years ago if it is judged to be just and fair to do so or the complaint involves an allegation of professional misconduct and it is in the public interest to deal with it. This will depend on the circumstances of each complaint.
What type of conduct can be complained about?
There are three types of conduct that can give rise to a complaint:
- professional misconduct
- unsatisfactory professional conduct, and
- consumer disputes
What is professional misconduct?
The term ‘professional misconduct’ covers a broad range of acts and circumstances and is the most serious charge a solicitor can face as a member of the profession. Examples may include:
- failing to abide by professional obligations
- contravening the Legal Profession Act 2004 and the associated rules
- charging excessive costs
- being found guilty of a serious offence or tax offence
What is unsatisfactory professional misconduct?
This is the second most serious charge a solicitor can face. It generally involves a consistent or substantial failure to reach or maintain a reasonable standard of competence and diligence in the practice of law.
What is a consumer dispute?
Consumer disputes are disputes between a person and a solicitor about the conduct of a solicitor which does not involve an issue of unsatisfactory professional conduct or professional misconduct.
What if I am the subject of a complaint?
The Law Society of NSW Professional Conduct Advisory Panel links solicitors facing a complaint with an experienced practitioner who can provide advice and practical assistance.