Who may complain?
Any person or body may 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 or by the NSW Legal Services Commissioner.
The complaint must:
- be made in writing within three years of the date on which the conduct complained about occurred
- identify the complainant
- identify the individual or law practice against whom the complaint is made, and
- describe the alleged conduct that is the subject of the complaint
A complaint about conduct that occurred more than three years ago may be dealt with if it just and fair to do so or if 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 allegation a solicitor can face. Examples may include:
- failing to abide by professional obligations
- contravening the Legal Profession Uniform Law (NSW) or the Legal Profession Uniform Law Application Act 2014 and the associated rules and regulations
- charging excessive costs
- being found guilty of a serious offence or tax offence
What is unsatisfactory professional misconduct?
This is the second most serious allegation a solicitor can face and “includes conduct of a lawyer occurring in connection with the practice of law that falls short of the standard of competence and diligence that a member of the public is entitled to expect of a reasonably competent lawyer” (section 296 of Legal Profession Uniform Law (NSW)) .
What is a consumer dispute?
Consumer disputes are disputes between a person and a solicitor about the provision of legal services to the person by the solicitor which do not involve an issue of unsatisfactory professional conduct or professional misconduct and include disputes about legal costs. Consumer disputes are generally dealt with by the NSW Legal Services Commissioner. More information in relation to consumer disputes may be found on the website of the Office of the Legal Services Commissioner.
What if I am the subject of a complaint?
The Law Society of NSW’s Professional Conduct Advisory Panel links solicitors facing a complaint with an experienced practitioner who can provide advice and practical assistance. Additional information about resources available for solicitors facing a complaint or otherwise experiencing difficulties may be found on the Law Society’s website.