Complaints about lawyers

Complaints about lawyers are often caused because of problems with communication (including a lack of communication). 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 resolve the issue, there are other steps you can take to make your complaint.

Find out:

  • what things you can complain about
  • where you can make a complaint, and
  • whether you can take court action against a lawyer.

What can I complain about?

As a professional, 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 are entitled to 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 Profession 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 Act 2008 (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

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

Where can you make a complaint?

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

  • Legal Profession 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 Profession Complaints Committee. 

  • Legal Aid WA
    We will investigate complaints against lawyers who work for Legal Aid WA, or who provide legal services on our behalf 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 LPCC 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 prevented from receiving compensation for an injury because your lawyer didn't lodge your compensation 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.

 

More information 

The Legal Profession Complaints Committee has fact sheets to help people when hiring a lawyer:

 

Reviewed: 7 June 2018

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.