I want to make a complaint about my lawyer
It can be difficult to know where to turn if you’re dissatisfied with the work of a lawyer. Thankfully, there is an established and easy-to-access complaints process if you want to lodge a complaint against a solicitor or barrister in NSW.
Making a complaint
In short, you should direct your complaint to the Office of the Legal Services Commissioner (OLSC), which is the official body that assesses complaints about the lawyers in NSW.
Anyone who has concerns about the conduct of lawyer can make a complaint to the OLSC. If you are submitting a complaint on behalf of another person, such as a loved one, you must identify them, outline your relationship to them, and provide their authority in writing.
The OLSC assesses complaints in two categories — consumer and disciplinary matters. Consumer matters are things like delays, costs, or poor communication while disciplinary matters comprise unsatisfactory professional conduct or professional misconduct.
Unsatisfactory professional conduct covers behaviour like threats or abuse, poor advice and representation, or non-disclosure of costs, while professional misconduct is more serious and includes gross overcharging, conflicts of interest, or acting contrary to instructions.
Complaints about a lawyer’s bill
One of the most common complaint that the OLSC receives about lawyers relates to legal costs. In these circumstances, the OLSC may attempt to resolve the dispute via mediation, which is an informal process undertaken by both parties.
If the dispute cannot be resolved this way, then the OLSC has the power to make a determination about the issue.
How to make a complaint
Complaints to the OLSC must be made in writing and the complaint must name the lawyer being complained about and describe the alleged conduct subject of the complaint.
Complaints can be submitted to the OLSC via its online portal, email or post. It recommends you attach supporting documentation in the form of photocopies to the complaint.
Also, keep in mind that you must lodge the complaint within three years of the conduct that is alleged to have occurred unless there are special circumstances.
What happens after a complaint?
After it receives a complaint, the OLSC determines whether it’s a consumer matter that can be resolved, or alternatively if it’s a complaint related to unsatisfactory professional conduct or professional misconduct that may result in disciplinary action against a lawyer.
The OLSC makes a preliminary assessment and then investigates if necessary. It may also refer a complaint about a solicitor to the NSW Law Society for investigation or resolution.
While the OLSC is your go-to authority for complaints about solicitors and barristers it doesn’t have power to deal with complaints about other legal participants such as court staff, magistrates of judges. These should be referred to the Judicial Commission of NSW.
The OLSC is also not the authority that deals with complaints about paralegals, law clerks or people practising as a lawyer without proper credentials, which should be directed to the NSW Law Society.
Meanwhile, if your complaint is about a migration agent you should go to the Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority, or if relates to a conveyancer to NSW Fair Trading.