Before making a complaint
Information you should know before making a complaint
It is best to try to resolve the issue with the lawyer first. Most complaints can be settled by raising your concerns directly with the lawyer. If you have tried and still cannot fix the problem, we can help. Contact us to discuss your complaint.
The law imposes time limits on making a complaint about your legal costs or a lawyer’s bill.
- 30 days for itemised bills from the date you received the bill.
- 60 days for lump sum bills from the date you received your bill.
If you are unhappy about your legal costs or a bill, you should act on it quickly. Your lawyer can sue you over an unpaid bill after 30 days. We cannot help you if you have been sued.
The law imposes time limits on making a complaint about lawyer conduct and behaviour.
If you are unhappy with the conduct or behaviour of a lawyer or law practice, you have 3 years to make a complaint. If your complaint is older than this, we may still be able to accept your complaint under very limited circumstances. Please call us to discuss your concerns.
There are some complaints which we are not able to deal with. These include where:
- the matter is before the courts, including where your lawyer has sued you;
- the complaint is about certain non-legal services provided by lawyers;
- 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 Problems with conveyancing page and the Consumer Affairs Victoria website); and
- the complaint is about a Judge, Magistrate or court staff (these complaints should be made directly to the Judicial Commission of Victoria).
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.
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 us to discuss your concerns before you make a formal complaint.
- The client of the lawyer who has received the bill.
- The person legally responsible for paying the bill.
To make a complaint on behalf of another person, you need to have their authority to do so. Call us to discuss this if it applies to you.
How much can you complain about?
There are dollar limits on the amount you can complain about:
- the total bill must be less than $100,000 (including barrister’s costs), or
- if the total bill is $100,000 or more, the amount you are disputing must be under $10,000.
Outside of these limits, we may be able to assist on an informal basis if the lawyer agrees to participate in negotiations.
- We ask you to do your best to clearly identify your concerns.
- We need you to co-operate with any requests we make for further information or documents.
- If you need more time, please ask for it – do not wait until a deadline has passed.
- We also ask that you treat our staff with respect and courtesy.
There are times when we may not be able to help you with a complaint. If this is the case, we can explain your rights to:
- make a claim under the Australian Consumer Law and Fair Trading legislation at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT), or
- apply to the Costs Court of the Supreme Court of Victoria.
Our fact sheet Legal costs: what rights does a consumer have? explains your rights in more detail.