Complaints about lawyers

You might have a complaint about a lawyer and want to know what you can do.

Complaints about lawyers are often caused because of problems with communication (including a lack of communication) often cause complaints about lawyers. Another common source of complaints is to do with lawyer's fees.

The first step in making a complaint is usually to try and resolve the problem directly with your lawyer. The best way is to write a letter to your lawyer, outlining your concerns and explaining what you want the lawyer to do. You might ask them to take a particular action or provide you with more information about a topic.

Putting your complaint in writing helps the lawyer to understand your issues. Keep a copy of your letters and any replies.

If your lawyer isn't able to can’t resolve the issue, there are other steps you can take to make your complaint.

This page has information about what the sorts of things about a lawyer you can complain about in relation to lawyers, where you can make a complaint and the basis for taking court action against a lawyer.

What can I complain about?

As professionals, lawyers are expected to provide a reasonable standard of service to their clients. Sometimes lawyers make mistakes or don't do what is expected of them. As a client, you can complain about:

Illegal conduct

Complaints about illegal or criminal activities by a lawyer should be made to the police for investigation.

You can also make a complaint to the Legal Services and Complaints Committee if it affects 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: for example fraud, breaking the law while working as a lawyer, or breaching the Legal Profession Uniform Law (WA). 

Unprofessional conduct

This is when a 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

Neglect often occurs where the lawyer does not deal with your case or fails to work with enough skill and care. Undue delay occurs when the lawyer does not deal with your case within a reasonable time.

Where can I make a complaint?

If you are unable to resolve your concerns by raising them directly with your lawyer, there are organisations you can contact about your complaint.

  • Legal Services and Complaints Committee on (08) 6211 3699.
    This committee is part of the Legal Practice Board of WA and deals with complaints against lawyers. You can make a written or oral statement to the Committee. 
  • Law Society of WA on (08) 9324 8600
    This is the main professional association for lawyers. The Law Society does not have any legal powers to deal with complaints but may be able to assist with your concerns. If the Law Society receives a complaint about serious misconduct, they will refer the complaint to the Legal Services and Complaints Committee. 
  • Legal Aid WA
    We will investigate complaints against lawyers who work for Legal Aid WA, or who provide legal services for us under a grant of aid. If Legal Aid WA receives a complaint against one of our lawyers, or a lawyer on our practitioner panels and lists, we may also refer the matter to the Legal Services and Complaints Committee for investigation.

Can I take court action 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 a negligence claim could be if you were unable to receive compensation for an injury because your lawyer did not lodge your compensation claim in time.

If this happens to you, you should get legal advice straight away. Some lawyers specialise in claiming compensation for people who have suffered because of professional negligence. The Other places you can get legal help’ webpage has a link to the Law Society of WA. They may be able to refer you to a lawyer with expertise in this area.

 

More information 

The Legal Practice Board of WA  website has more information about making a complaint.

The Legal Services Council website has a link to the laws that cover the conduct of lawyers.

The Law Society of WA website has information about what you can do if you are not happy with your lawyer. 

 

Reviewed: 31 October 2023

Disclaimer

The information displayed on this page is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. If you have a legal problem, you should see a lawyer. Legal Aid Western Australia aims to provide information that is accurate, however does not accept responsibility for any errors or omissions in the information provided on this page or incorporated into it by reference.