Complain about quality of service
This page covers a range of complaints you may have, including where your lawyer has not done the work you asked, has done a poor job, has caused you delays, and where your lawyer has not communicated with you. Your complaint might be about a specific lawyer or a law practice
Before you make a complaint
It is best to try to resolve the issue with your lawyer first. Most complaints can be settled by raising your concerns directly with your lawyer. If you have tried and still cannot fix the problem, we can help. Call us or email us to discuss your complaint.
Tel: 1300 796 344
If you prefer, you can come in and discuss your concerns with us in person. Our address details are located on the Contact Us page.
Time limits for complaints about quality of service
The law imposes time limits on making a complaint about a lawyer. If you have a complaint, we suggest you act on it as quickly as possible.
If you are unhappy with the quality of service you received from your lawyer, you have 3 years to make a complaint about that service. If your complaint is older than this, we may still be able to accept your complaint under certain very limited circumstances. Please call us to discuss your concerns.
Who can make a complaint about service issues?
We can only accept a complaint about quality of service issues if you are the client of the law practice or the lawyer you are complaining about.
There may be other limitations that affect whether we can accept a complaint. Please call our office to discuss your concerns before you make a formal complaint.
How the complaints process works
What information do we need?
We need certain information from you before we can look at your complaint.
We will ask you to provide:
- the name and contact details of the lawyer or law practice
- a description of what happened in date order, and
- your contact details.
We may ask for more information later.
What we do
We will try to help you and your lawyer reach an agreement on what to do to resolve your complaint. Our service is free and our staff are impartial, meaning that we do not take sides with you or the lawyer. We need all parties to negotiate in good faith, which means being prepared to understand the views of the other party and to compromise on certain issues, where appropriate. The process can take days or weeks, and sometimes months to reach a result you both agree to.
There are many possible outcomes from our dispute resolution processes. These can include your lawyer agreeing to give you a clearer explanation of your legal matter, apologising to you, or agreeing to redo the work for you.
If we cannot help you resolve the matter, and if it seems appropriate, we can carry out a formal investigation. This will not automatically result in the lawyer being disciplined. Rather, it is a search to obtain the facts of the matter.
After the investigation, if we find it is appropriate we can make a legally-binding order against the lawyer called a ‘determination’. These determinations can include a requirement that the lawyer:
- redo the work
- undertake counselling, supervision or further training
- apologise to you
- pay you compensation of up to $25,000 (and only under limited circumstances).
The determination might also formally caution the lawyer.
If we make a determination on your complaint, we will fully explain what this means to you. Examples of previous determinations are available on our Commissioner Determinations page.
We will only order compensation if an investigation shows that you lost money as a direct result of the lawyer’s conduct, and if it is in the interests of justice that we make the order.
Please note: compensation is not payable for:
- the amount you think the Court would have ordered in your favour had the lawyer dealt differently with the matter; or
- other speculative losses.
Tell us if you believe the lawyer should pay you compensation. Tell us how much you think should be paid, and why. You will need to provide proof of any loss you have suffered and details of why you think the lawyer’s actions led directly to that loss. We will explain to you what proof we need. We will then assess if compensation is payable, and we will let you know.
The law requires that compensation is payable only where it is fair and reasonable. If granted, the amount may be different from what you asked for.
We are also able to close a complaint without taking any action. We would do this only under certain circumstances, such as if the complaint is unfounded or if you refuse to participate in good faith in our dispute resolution process.
Your complaint might involve other matters in addition to the quality of service you received from your lawyer. We can also receive complaints about legal costs or your bill, and the way your lawyer or law practice behaved towards you. We handle these types of complaints in different ways.
For information on complaints about legal costs or the bill you received from your lawyer, see our Complain about legal costs and bills page.
For information on complaints about the behaviour of a lawyer, see our Complain about conduct and behaviour page.
Our fact sheets can give you further information on your rights when working with lawyers.
- Meeting a lawyer – your first appointment (151KB PDF)
- Working with your lawyer (207KB PDF)
- Non-legal services provided by lawyers (147KB PDF)
- Do you have a problem with your lawyer? (321KB PDF)
- Negligence and Complaints (145KB PDF)
- Making a claim against the Fidelity Fund (154KB PDF)