What to do when a problem arises
If you have a problem with your lawyer, usually the best thing you can do is to speak to your lawyer first to attempt to resolve the problem. It may be a misunderstanding or miscommunication that can be resolved once the lawyer understands why you are not happy. However if the problem cannot be resolved or you feel you cannot speak to your lawyer, you can raise your concerns with the lawyer’s managing partner.
Many clients feel at a disadvantage when discussing service issues with their lawyer. You are welcome to call us for some suggestions as to how to resolve the issue without the need to raise the matter as a formal complaint.
You are also entitled to change to another lawyer if you feel you cannot work with your lawyer any longer; however your current lawyer can retain your file until his or her costs are paid.
For further information on what you can do if you have a disagreement with your lawyer, download our fact sheet: Do you have a problem with your lawyer? (321KB PDF)
Before you write a letter of complaint or fill in a complaint form, you should first speak to the Victorian Legal Services Commissioner’s staff. We can sometimes help you without you needing to spend the time putting your concerns in writing. Further, if you are disputing costs or a similar service issue, you should note that the law requires you to make a reasonable attempt to resolve the issue with your lawyer before our office can get involved. We can help you with suggestions on how best to raise the issues with your lawyer.
If we are not able to help you with your problem, we will usually be able to offer suggestions on where you can get further information or other assistance you may wish to try. Please note, however, that we cannot give you legal advice.
Contact us to speak to an intake and assessment officer.
What is the Commissioner not able to deal with?
We cannot deal with complaints where:
- the matter is before the courts, including where your lawyer has sued you
- the complaint is about non-legal services provided by lawyers (147KB PDF)
- you are disputing legal costs of more than $100,000 (unless the amount in dispute is under $10,000 – see Making a complaint for more information)
- you are complaining about a legal bill that is more than 6 months old
- you are complaining about something that took place more than 3 years ago, unless there are extreme circumstances
- the complaint is about a licensed conveyancer (these complaints should be made to Consumer Affairs Victoria). For more information on complaints about conveyancers, see the Lawyers and conveyancing page and the Consumer Affairs Victoria website.
- the complaint is about a judge, magistrate or court staff (these complaints should be made directly to the Court involved).
The Commissioner will assess each complaint to determine whether we have power to handle it and how it will be best handled. If it is one that we can handle we will usually send a copy of the complaint to the lawyer to ask them to respond to the issues you have raised. For an explanation of the process we follow for the handling of complaints, see the How we handle complaints page.