Frequently asked questions
Who can make a complaint?
Anyone. For more details see Fact Sheet Making a complaint ).
Who can be complained about?
You can make a complaint about the conduct of current and former solicitors, barristers and law practice employees.
You can also complain about an "unlawful operator"; that is, a person who engages (or advertises that they engage) in legal practice when not entitled to do so.
Is there anything I should do before lodging a complaint?
Yes. Before you lodge a written complaint, you should consider less formal ways to resolve your problem. For example, an issue about the way in which your matter is being managed by a legal practitioner may be resolved by talking directly to the person concerned or a more senior person at the same firm. Our staff at the Legal Services Commission may also be able to help you resolve your concerns. Disputes about issues such as communication with your lawyer, delays in dealing with instructions, or legal costs, can sometimes be resolved by negotiation.
Is there a time limit on making complaints?
Generally, the Commission accepts complaints about conduct that has occurred within the past three years. Only in certain circumstances will matters older than three years be reviewed, see Policy - Out of time complaints .
Can I get help with making a complaint?
Yes. The Commission can help you if you have any queries or need help filling out the form. We can also arrange telephone interpreters or any other assistance if you need it, but we cannot provide legal advice.
Do I have to pay anything to make a complaint?
No. There is no charge to lodge a complaint. The Commission’s services are free.
What the Commission cannot do
The Commission cannot:
- give legal advice or provide legal representation—complainants need to seek their own legal advice about what civil remedies are available to them (for legal advice, contact Legal Aid Queensland, the Queensland Public Interest Clearing House, your local community legal centre or the Queensland Law Society referral service.
- accept complaints that are frivolous or vexatious, or complaints that have been dealt with previously when there is no good reason to reconsider the matter.
- accept complaints about the conduct of an individual if, at the time, they were not acting as a legal practitioner or law practice employee but in some other capacity such as an investment adviser, immigration agent or member of parliament.
- accept complaints about decisions of courts or tribunals or review past proceedings in courts or tribunals. The Commission is not an alternative means of appeal. Complainants who are unhappy about decisions of courts or tribunals should seek independent legal advice about their prospects of successfully appealing those decisions in a higher court.
- accept complaints about government legal officers unless the complaint is made by the chief executive officer of the government department or agency that employs them, the Queensland Law Society or the Bar Association of Queensland, or another legal practitioner.
- decide whether legal practitioners have overcharged their clients or alternatively whether their fees were fair and reasonable as the Commission does not have the powers to do so, see Fact Sheet Legal Costs - your right to know
- decide whether legal practitioners have been negligent. The disciplinary scheme under the Legal Profession Act 2007 is not intended to be an alternative forum to the courts for hearing and deciding claims of negligence against lawyers. The Commission might consider taking disciplinary action against legal practitioners who have been obviously and demonstrably negligent but, generally speaking, legal consumers who believe their lawyers have been negligent will have to take them to court to prove they were negligent and should take independent legal advice accordingly. As a rule the Commission will consider taking disciplinary action only after negligence has been proved in a court.
Having said that, there are some circumstances in which the Commission might be able to help legal consumers who believe their lawyer was negligent. It might be possible to resolve things to both the consumers and their lawyer’s satisfaction in circumstances in which, for example, the practitioner has made an honest or careless mistake of some kind such as losing a title deed or miscalculating a rates adjustment in a conveyance. In the Commission’s opinion, practitioners in these circumstances should be expected to make good their mistake.
Can my solicitor bill me for the time it takes to respond to my complaint?
Your legal practitioner should not charge you for the time it takes him or her to respond to your complaint. The Commission takes the view that legal practitioners are obliged to respond to any complaint against them, and that complainants should not be out of pocket for exercising their entitlement to complain.
Is the information kept confidential?
Complaints to the Commission are confidential in that only those parties involved in the dispute or complaint are privy to the information. You should note, however, that your complaint will very likely be sent to the legal practitioner or law practice employee in question so he or she can respond. The information you provide us will be dealt with in accordance with the Information Privacy Act 2009 and Legal Profession Act 2007. Further details are available from the Privacy page.
If you have concerns about the details of your complaint being disclosed to the legal practitioner in question, please tell the Commission.
Can I withdraw my complaint?
Yes. You can withdraw your complaint in person, by phone or in writing. However, you should be aware that withdrawing your complaint does not prevent the Commission from taking action on matters raised in your complaint on its own accord.
Can I be sued for making a complaint?
You are fully within your rights to make a complaint to the Commission. You have an absolute defence to any defamation action that might be threatened or taken against you provided that you made your complaint genuinely and in good faith.
You should bear in mind, however, that making a complaint may alter your relationship with your practitioner. To help matters, make sure your complaint is accurate and keep it about the practitioner’s conduct, not the practitioner personally. The Commission will do what it can to make sure your relationship with your practitioner remains professional and respectful.
Am I free to change practitioner?
Yes. You are free to change legal practitioner at any time, regardless of whether a complaint has been made against him or her. However, first consider whether changing practitioner at this stage of your legal proceedings is in your best interests.
You may have to pay your legal practitioner any money you owe him or her before you are able to obtain your file. You might also incur additional expense if you hire a new practitioner as they will need to read your file to get up to speed and may charge you for the time this takes. You might want to consider seeking independent legal advice before making a decision.
Can I get my paperwork back if I change practitioner?
Not necessarily. Your legal practitioner is entitled to claim a lien, that is, he or she has the right to keep any paperwork or other property you gave them until such time as you have paid all fees and expenses for work done to date.
How long will it take for my complaint to be resolved?
That depends on the nature of your complaint; the more complex or serious the matter, the longer it may take to investigate. All complaints received by the Commission are dealt with as quickly as possible but also thoroughly and fairly, and that sometimes takes time. If you have any concerns about how your matter is being handled, please discuss with the Commission's officer.
Can I get compensation?
Maybe. The Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal and the Legal Practice Committee can both make a compensation order if they find the legal practitioner you complained about guilty of either 'unsatisfactory professional conduct' or 'professional misconduct' and that you suffered pecuniary (money) loss because of that conduct (see Fact Sheet 4 Compensation orders ).