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Below is a series of expandable boxes addressing many of the frequently asked questions.  If the answer to your question is not here, please contact our enquiry line.

Who can make a complaint?

Anyone can make a complaint to the Legal Profession Conduct Commissioner (LPCC).

Who can the complaint be about?

Complaints can be made about the conduct of current and former solicitors, barristers and law practice employees.

How independent are you?

The LPCC is an independent public officer. The decisions of the LPCC about complaints are not subject to review by the Attorney General, any Government Minister or Parliament. 

The LPCC is funded by the Legal Practitioners Fidelity Fund (LPFF) and not from State Treasury or Commonwealth taxation revenue. The LPFF is established from interest on law practices' trust funds and other fees paid by legal practitioners and law practices.

Each complaint or inquiry is dealt with entirely on its merits. Staff members are obliged to acknowledge any potential conflict of interest.

Can I get a quick answer from your inquiry line as to whether or not my lawyer is guilty of misconduct?

No. We cannot give you this advice as we would first need to receive your complaint in writing and give your lawyer a chance to respond to your allegations.

Our staff can talk generally about conduct that might be misconduct and can inform you of what you may need to make a complaint and the process for making a complaint.

What should I do before lodging a complaint?

Before lodging a written complain, consider whether there might be less formal ways to resolve your issue or concern.

Might you, for example, seek to talk directly to the lawyer concerned or a more senior lawyer at the same firm? Some disputes, such as communication with the lawyer, delays in dealing with instructions, or legal costs, might be resolved by negotiation.

Is there a time limit on making complaints?

Generally, the Commission accepts complaints about conduct that has occurred within the past three years and overcharging complaints where the final invoice was received within the last two years. Only in certain circumstances will matters older than that be reviewed.

Is there a cost to lodge a complaint?

Yes, there is a fee to lodge a complaint with the LPCC. However, in many cases that fee can be reduced or waived altogether. See [Fees].

Can I arrange a personal interview?

Due to limited time and resources, interviews are generally only arranged for those who have difficulty reading or writing English or have some other problem that causes difficulty lodging a complaint.

The LPCC cannot provide legal advice.

Do you provide interpreters?

Telephone interpreters can be arranged if necessary. You need to book this through the LPCC. A time can be made for you to come in for an interview with an LPCC staff member who will have a Telephone Interpreter organised, or arrangements can be made over the phone.

What will happen to my lawyer and my case if I make a complaint?

We encourage you to complain if you are aggrieved by your lawyer’s conduct and we do what we can to promote good relationships between lawyers and clients.

Complaints to the LPCC do not directly impact on court proceedings or influence the outcomes of court proceedings.

Nevertheless, lodging a complaint with the LPCC can alter your relationship with your lawyer. There are times when lawyers will stop acting for clients who make complaints as they believe that their client has lost confidence in them. Much will depend upon the nature of the complaint.

Can my lawyer sue me?

Genuine complaints about the conduct of a lawyer do not provide a basis for a civil claim by your lawyer, such as defamation, as they are made confidentially to the LPCC.

Can I make a complaint anonymously?

No. The Legal Practitioner Act, 1981 requires that a formal complaint identify the complainant. If you have concerns regarding a lawyer being informed of your complaint you can discuss these with our staff. 

The LPCC will receive anonymous information even though a complaint will not directly result. Such information may assist our understanding of behaviours in the profession and may inform our conduct of other investigations.

How long does it take from the time I lodge a complaint to the time I find out whether or not my lawyer will be disciplined or when my complaint will be resolved?

There is no time limit for our conduct of investigations. We endeavour to carry out investigations expeditiously but limited resources, the complexity of the investigaiton and other factors may mean that some investigations will be delayed.

In the 2020-2021 financial year, about 55 per cent of complaints were finalised within three months, with the majority of these being consumer matters.

Can my lawyer charge me for the time it takes to answer letters I write in trying to resolve my complaint?

No. Lawyer are obligated to respond to the LPCC. Any time spent talking or writing to us cannot properly be charged a client who has lodged a complaint.

I think my lawyer made a mistake -  can they be disciplined?

Your lawyer has a duty to provide you with reasonable care and skill in the provision of legal services. Nevertheless, mistakes can be made. Whether a mistake can lead to disciplinary action can be a complicated issue and will depend upon the nature of the mistake: a miscalculation on an invoice will generally not result in disciplinary action; getting the date wrong for lodging a claim for compensation may be sufficiently negligent to result in disciplinary action.

I think my lawyer has overcharged me, what can I do?

The LPCC will assist the parties in attempting to resolve costs dispute. If the dispute cannot be resolved, the Commissioner has power, in appropriate cases, to make a determination about costs, including a binding determination on disputes of up to $50,000.

Further information can be found on the LPCC Fact Sheet on Costs Disputes and Costs Dispute Resolution.

What is a lien?

It is a lawyer' s right to keep any property lodged with the lawyer until a client has paid all of their fees and relevant expenses (disbursements).

Lawyers can claim a lien over documents and property that a client gave them while they were representing the client. They can also claim a lien over money they are holding on the client’s behalf.

Why can't I always get everything from my file?

Most documents in a file belong to the client but some belong to the lawyer. Ownership depends on when the document came into existence and for what purpose.

Documents that the lawyer prepared for their own use and for which you are not expected to pay, belong to the lawyer. Examples include notes taken in conference to aid a lawyer's memory.

A lawyer must return documents to which the client is entitled or keep them for seven years.

My lawyer pressured me into settling and I regret it.  What can I do?

Settlement decisions are final unless an appeal to the court is possible.

Your lawyer should not apply undue pressure on you to settle. Your lawyer cannot make the final decision to settle. It is you who decides whether or not to settle or to pursue court action. However, if you choose to go against the advice of your lawyer, they may decide not to continue acting for you.

There are certain things that your lawyer must consider when advising you about settlement.

Accepting a settlement offer can sometimes be advantageous because it reduces legal costs that would be incurred if the case went to hearing and it can take the risk out of a case, enabling you to see exactly how much you will receive after your legal costs and disbursements are paid.

Sometimes it is not in your interests to settle, for example when the amount being offered is too small.

A lawyer advises you to settle or not based on the strengths of your case, the risks you face if the case goes to hearing and the range of damages the court is likely to award you. A lawyer is obliged to fully inform you of their opinion. You may feel pressured by a lawyer making efforts to make their opinions known.

If I have a complaint about a judge or a magistrate, where do I go?

If you have a complaint about a judicial officer such as a Judge or Associate Judge of the Supreme Court, a Judge of the Land and Environment Court, or District Court, or a Magistrate of the Local Court, you will need to contact the Judicial Conduct Commissioner.

Can complaints be withdrawn?

Complaints to the LPCC cannot be ‘withdrawn’. Once the Commissioner is made aware of a complaint, the Commissioner is obligated to consider whether there has been misconduct unless the Commissioner determines that there is a good reason not to pursue an investigation.

A complainant’s attitude may affect the Commissioner’s decision whether to pursue an investigation.

Can I get compensation?

The LPCC cannot make a compensation order.