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Complaint process

Complaint process

Anyone can make a complaint to the Commissioner about a lawyer practising in South Australia

Complaints are received by way of the online complaint form on this website, in the form of printed versions of the complaint form, in correspondence and by a combination of these documents.

The Commissioner can only investigate complaints that meet certain statutory criteria.  A complaint must:

  • be in writing; and
  • identify the complainant; and 
  • if possible, identify the legal practitioner or former legal practitioner about whom the complaint is made; and 
  • describe the alleged conduct the subject of the complaint. 

Many complaints are detailed and come with additional documents as "evidence", others lack detail and/or evidence.  The Commissioner's staff endeavour to obtain a clear understanding of the complaint and any relevant supporting documents before consideration is given to commencing an investigation.

A complaint made within 3 years of the conduct that is the subject of the complaint, and meeting the above conditions, must generally be investigated (see section 77C of the Act for exceptions).

Own Initiative Investigations

In addition to investigating complaints received, the Commissioner can institute investigations where the Commissioner has reasonable cause to suspect a practitioner has committed misconduct.  Although there is no "complainant" for an own initiative investigation, the Commissioner's processes are generally the same.


Each year, the Commissioner closes a significant proportion of complaints without investigation.  Where the Commissioner determines to commence an investigation, the lawyer will receive a letter from the Commissioner enclosing the complaint (unless it is an own initiative investigation) along with a summary or details of the conduct being investigated; and the practitioner will be invited to respond. 

The fact that the Commissioner decides to commence an investigation does not mean that the Commissioner has formed a view that the practitioner has committed misconduct.