The Legal Services Commission is the sole body authorised under the Legal Profession Act 2007 (the Act) to receive and deal with complaints about lawyers, law practice employees and unlawful operators. The Commissioner also has responsibility for dealing with complaints about, or otherwise investigating possible breaches of the ‘touting’ provisions and the restrictions on the advertising of personal injury services under the Personal Injuries Proceedings Act 2002. The Commissioner is responsible for ensuring complaints are dealt with thoroughly, fairly and transparently.
The Commission works with other regulatory authorities to administer the Act in the interests of justice, and for the protection of consumers of legal services, and the public generally.
Queensland Co-Regulatory Model
The Bar Association of Queensland (BAQ) and the Queensland Law Society (QLS) are the professional representative bodies of barristers and solicitors, respectively, in Queensland. As regulatory authorities, the BAQ and the QLS perform certain functions under the Act relating to their members, including the issue and regulation of practising certificates, setting of legal profession rules and (in the case of the QLS) the audit of trust accounts and other practice matters.
The Legal Services Commissioner has the sole authority to prosecute lawyers or legal practitioners in relation to professional conduct matters. The Commissioner has the discretion to refer professional conduct investigations involving barristers to the BAQ; all other investigations are undertaken by the Legal Services Commission.
The Legal Services Commission is unable to deal with all complaints it may receive. Some complaints are simply beyond the powers given to the Commissioner under the Legal Profession Act 2007 and are beyond the Commission's jurisdiction.
The Commission deals with a complaint based on the nature of the complaint. The Commission may investigate complaints or where deemed appropriate, refer them to the Queensland Law Society (QLS) or the Bar Association of Queensland (BAQ).
From 1 September 2015 by agreement with the QLS all complaints previously referred to the QLS will now be investigated by the Office of the Legal Services Commission. The Commission still continues to refer matters to the BAQ.
Whilst the Queensland Law Society (QLS) and Bar Association of Queensland (BAQ) play a role in investigating complaints, the Commissioner oversees and, where necessary, directs these investigations.
Where the Commissioner refers a complaint to one of these professional bodies for investigation, they are required to report back to the Commissioner who will then review their findings and recommendations before deciding what action, if any, to take. It is only the Commissioner who can decide what action to take on a complaint after investigation.
When the evidence warrants it, the Commissioner will initiate disciplinary proceedings in one of two disciplinary bodies; the Legal Practice Committee (LPC) or, for more serious matters, the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT).