Complaints Process

Disciplinary investigation process

Step 1:  Receipt of Complaint

Upon receipt of a complaint about a lawyer, the regulator (in this case, the NSW Legal Services Commissioner) is required to conduct a preliminary assessment of the complaint.  At this stage the NSW Legal Services Commissioner may confirm the allegations being made and, sometimes, request further information from the complainant and/or the lawyer.

Step 2:  Preliminary Assessment

Once any such confirmation or further information has been received from the complainant, or if no confirmation is required, the preliminary assessment is completed. The complaint will either be closed at this stage, or an investigation commenced.  If an investigation is commenced, the complaint is forwarded to the lawyer for comment.  The lawyer is also informed of their right to make submissions in relation to the complaint within a specified timeframe (at least 21 days).

Step 3: Investigation

  • When the submissions from the lawyer are received, they are ordinarily forwarded to the complainant for further comment.
  • Submissions from the complainant and the lawyer in relation to material provided or comments made regarding the issues raised in the complaint may be exchanged a number of times.  Sometimes information is also sought from a third party.

Step 4:  Outcome

When both the complainant and the lawyer have fully ventilated their issues and submissions the NSW Legal Services Commissioner decides how to conclude the complaint.   At this point there are a number of options available depending on the material that has been provided and evidence available.

Step 5:  Findings of Unsatisfactory Professional Conduct

If the NSW Legal Services Commissioner finds the lawyer has engaged in unsatisfactory professional conduct, they may:

(i)    Make various orders including cautioning or reprimanding the lawyer, an order requiring an apology from the lawyer, an order requiring the lawyer to undertake training or counselling, an order requiring the lawyer to pay a fine or an order imposing conditions on the practising certificate of the lawyer.

(ii)    Commence disciplinary proceedings in the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT), if of the opinion that the conduct may amount to unsatisfactory professional conduct that would be more appropriately dealt with by NCAT.

Step 6:  Conduct may amount to Professional Misconduct

If the NSW Legal Services Commissioner is of the opinion that the alleged conduct may amount to professional misconduct, they may commence disciplinary proceedings in NCAT.

Step 7:  Closure if no findings of Unsatisfactory Professional Conduct and Professional Misconduct 

If the NSW Legal Services Commissioner does not make the findings in paragraphs (5) or (6) above, then the complaint will be closed. The complainant and the lawyer will be notified in writing of the decision and be given a statement of reasons for the decision.

Step 8: Notification of outcome

The process outlined above can take some time.  It is not uncommon for a complaint investigation to take 6 months to a year, sometimes longer.  The OLSC will advise you of the decision once the investigation is completed.

Last updated:

04 Dec 2023

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We acknowledge Aboriginal people as the First Nations Peoples of NSW and pay our respects to Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the ongoing connection Aboriginal people have to this land and recognise Aboriginal people as the original custodians of this land.

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