This page provides some basic information on how to make a complaint about a lawyer.
How to prevent problems with your lawyer
One of the most common causes of complaints about lawyers is poor communication. Either the lawyer does not keep the client informed or the client is not clear about what they expect from the lawyer. There are some basic things you can do to reduce the likelihood of having problems with your lawyer.
For more information and tips on preventing problems with your lawyer see:
What can I complain about?
As a professional, lawyers are expected to provide a reasonable standard of service to their clients. Sometimes lawyers do make mistakes or don't do what is expected of them. A client is entitled to complain about:
- Illegal conduct - illegal or criminal activities by a lawyer will be dealt with by the police like any other person. If a lawyer has been found guilty of illegal conduct you can also make a complaint about the lawyer's ability or fitness to practise as a lawyer. The offence must relate directly to the lawyer's ability to provide an honest and acceptable legal service eg fraud, breaking the law while working as a lawyer, breaching the Legal Profession Act 2008 (WA).
- Unprofessional conduct - this is when the lawyer does not meet the standards set down by the Law Society of WA or the Legal Practice Board of WA. This would also involve acting in what most other professionals would consider a disgraceful or dishonourable way.
- Neglect and undue delay - the lawyer does not attend to the client's case or fails to attend with adequate skill and care. Undue delay occurs when the lawyer does not attend to the case within a reasonable time.
Where can I complain?
Try and resolve the problem with your lawyer. The best way to do this is to write a letter outlining your concerns and what action or information you want. Keep a copy of your letters and any replies. Putting your complaint in writing helps the lawyer to understand your issues.
If your problem is still not resolved you can contact:
- the Legal Profession Complaints Committee on (08) 9461 2299. This committee deals with complaints against lawyers. You can make a written or verbal statement to the Committee. Information on how complaints are dealt with is on the Legal Practice Board website under the heading Complaints. The committee normally does not deal with disputes about fees and will refer these to be assessed by the Supreme Court. This process is called taxation. See here for information About legal costs and fees.
- the Law Society of WA on (08) 9324 8600. This is the main professional association for lawyers. The Society does not have any legal powers to deal with complaints but may be able to assist. If the Society receives a complaint about serious misconduct they will refer the complaint to the Legal Profession Complaints Committee.
How do I complain against Legal Aid WA lawyers or lawyers working on a legal aid grant?
In addition to the above, Legal Aid WA will investigate any complaint against a lawyer provided by them. The complaint must be in writing and addressed to the Director. For contact details call Legal Aid WA's InfoLine on 1300 650 579 or go to the Legal Aid WA website.
For more information about Legal Aid's lawyers see Legal representation.
Can I make a claim against my lawyer?
Lawyers, like everyone else, can make mistakes. If you think your lawyer has made a serious mistake and caused you psychological harm, financial loss or physical injury you may have a claim against them for negligence. An example of where a negligence claim may occur is if you lost your right to compensation for an injury because your lawyer didn't lodge your claim in time.
If this happens to you, get legal advice straight away. Some lawyers specialise in claiming compensation for people who have suffered because of professional negligence.
Where can I get more information?
Fact sheets on a range of issues including "A guide to better communications with your legal practitioner", " Negligence" and "Opposing legal representatives" published by the Legal Profession Complaints Committee can be downloaded from the Legal Practice Board of WA website.
Last reviewed: 15/01/2015