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Our complaint processes

Our complaint processes

Our investigation process for investigations into a lawyer's conduct or the costs they charge are flexible to accomodate the needs of each investigation and to ensure that they are fair.  Investigation will, generally, follow the below process:

Upon receiving a written complaint about a lawyer, the Commissioner’s office will:

  • send an email or letter to the complainant acknowledging receipt of the complaint;
  • assess the complaint:
    • consider the facts provided;
    • read any additional documents provided; and
    • decide whether the complaint can be conciliated or should be investigated;
  • if we believe that conciliation might be helpful, invite the complainant and the lawyer to conciliate the dispute;
  • if conciliation is not considered appropriate or an agreed outcome cannot be reached, a decision is made as to whether the complaint will be investigated.

During the investigation of a complaint the Commissioner's office will usually write to the complainant and the lawyer a number of times:

  • with questions;
  • asking for documents; and
  • asking for explanations.


If the complaint is about the lawyers conduct or behaviour, at the end of the investigation, the Commissioner will make a determination as to whether there has been misconduct.  If the Commissioner decides that there has been misconduct, the Commissioner will take disciplinary action.  For the types of disciplinary action that may be taken see Outcomes. 


If the complaint is about the lawyers conduct or behaviour, at the end of the investigation, the Commissioner will:

  • make a recommendation as to whether there has been overcharging; and
  • if that recommendation is not accepted, and if the amount in dispute is $50,000 or less, consider making a binding determination.

Closing complaint investigations

At any stage of an investigation, the Commissioner can decide to close a complaint.  This can happen for a number of reasons including, the Commissioner deciding that:

  • the complaint is outside of the Commissioner’s jurisdiction (there is no power to investigate);
  • the complaint it is frivolous or lacking substance;
  • the complainant has not cooperated with the investigation including by answering questions and providing documents; or
  • the dispute about legal costs has already been dealt with by a court or tribunal.