The Law Society is responsible for receiving, managing, and investigating complaints about the conduct of solicitors and law firm employees in the ACT. This function is assigned to the Society under Chapter 4 of the Legal Profession Act 2006 (ACT).

You can complain to the Society about the conduct or behaviour of a solicitor who is practising in the ACT. However, the Society cannot deal with complaints about barristers, court staff, judges, magistrates, or tribunal members. The Society also cannot deal with complaints where a matter is before the courts.

How do I make a complaint about a solicitor?

Any person may make a complaint about the conduct of a solicitor.

Before lodging a formal complaint, you should consider trying to resolve your complaint directly with the solicitor involved. For example, you might consider discussing your concerns directly with the solicitor involved, or with a more senior person at their law firm.

You are encouraged to contact a member of the Society’s Professional Standards team to discuss your complaint.

If you are unable to resolve the issue directly with your solicitor, and you’ve discussed your options with our Professional Standards team, you can lodge a formal complaint with the Society.

Complaints to the Society must be submitted electronically.

Submit a complaints enquiry

If you would like to make a general enquiry about a possible complaint you can click here to submit an online enquiry to the Society. A member of the professional standards team will provide a response within 4 working days.

If you would like assistance with completing an online complaint form, please contact the Law Society on 02 6274 0300.

Your complaint must:

  • be made within three years of the date on which the conduct complained about occurred
  • identify the person making the complaint
  • identify the individual against whom the complaint is made
  • describe the alleged conduct that is the subject of the complaint
  • provide copies of any relevant documents that support your complaint (this may include emails, notes, correspondence, agreements, etc)

Anonymous complaints will not be investigated by the Society.

If you are making a complaint on behalf of another person (such as a relative or a friend), you will need to tell us their name and contact details.


What types of issues can I complain about?

The Society is able to investigate two types of issues, which are known formally as unsatisfactory professional conduct, and professional misconduct.

As a simple guide, your complaint may include issues such as poor communication, charging of legal costs, inadequate service, unreasonable delays, conflicts of interest, not following instructions or acting without instructions, or incompetence.

If you have suffered financial loss because of the conduct of a solicitor, you can make a request for a compensation order in your complaint.

Unsatisfactory professional conduct involves conduct in connection with the practice of law that falls short of the standard of competence and diligence that a member of the public is entitled to expect of a reasonably competent solicitor.

Professional misconduct is the most serious charge a solicitor can face as a member of the profession. It includes conduct involving a substantial or consistent failure to reach or maintain a reasonable standard of competence and diligence; and conduct that would, if established, justify a finding that the solicitor is not a fit and proper person to engage in legal practice. Examples may include dishonesty, charging excessive costs, failing to abide by professional obligations, or contravening the Legal Profession Act 2006 and the associated rules.

The Society can only take disciplinary action against a solicitor where it is satisfied there is a reasonable likelihood that the solicitor will be found guilty by the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal (ACAT) of unsatisfactory professional conduct or professional misconduct.

As a general rule, this means that the unsupported word of a complainant against the unsupported word of a solicitor will not be enough to satisfy the reasonable likelihood requirement.

What happens after my complaint is received by the Society?

Receipt of your complaint form will be acknowledged by the Society. Your complaint will then be assessed to determine whether it is appropriate that it be dismissed, mediated, or investigated.

Please note that your written complaint will be sent to the solicitor involved to enable them to respond to the allegations against them.

What happens if my complaint is dismissed?

Your complaint may be dismissed for lack of evidence if you do not supply further information when requested to do so by the Society.

What happens if my complaint is mediated?

If both you and the solicitor agree to participate, the Society will appoint a trained and experienced mediator to assist in the resolution of the dispute.

Possible outcomes of the mediation process include that you:

  • have your documents or file transferred to another solicitor
  • receive an apology
  • resolve a dispute about fees
  • improve communication with the solicitor
  • resolve any other dispute with the solicitor.

The investigation of your complaint will be deferred until the mediation is concluded. If your dispute is not resolved through mediation, your complaint will be investigated by the Society.

What happens if my complaint is investigated?

The aim of the investigation process is to gather relevant information from you and the solicitor against whom your complaint is made, in order to determine whether there is a reasonable likelihood that the solicitor would be found guilty of unsatisfactory professional conduct or professional misconduct by the ACAT.

The Society will appoint a suitably qualified person to investigate and report on the complaint. The Society’s investigation will be fair and impartial.

The solicitor must cooperate with, and must be open and frank in their dealings with, the Society. Failure to do so may result in the Society taking disciplinary action against the solicitor.

Once the investigation has been completed, the Council of the Society must decide whether, on the evidence that can be presented to the Tribunal, there is a reasonable likelihood that ACAT will find the solicitor guilty of unsatisfactory professional conduct or professional misconduct.

If the Council decides that there is not a reasonable likelihood that the solicitor will be found guilty, then it will dismiss the complaint and take no further action.

If the Council decides that there is a reasonable likelihood that the solicitor will be found guilty, it will commence disciplinary action against the solicitor.

How long will it take to investigate my complaint?

The time required to investigate and determine a complaint will vary depending on the complexity and seriousness of the complaint. As a general rule, the investigation of a complaint will take several months. The process is quicker and easier where you provide full details of all relevant aspects of the complaint in your initial correspondence.

Factors that sometimes can delay the finalisation of an investigation include:

  • waiting for the parties to respond to requests for information or comment from the Society
  • seeking further information from both sides
  • ongoing court proceedings which must be finalised before the complaint investigation can be resolved.

What happens after the investigation of the complaint?

The Society will consider the complaint and the result of the investigation and can then:

  • dismiss the complaint
  • take action against the solicitor (for example, caution or reprimand the solicitor, direct the solicitor to take certain actions, impose a fine, or make a compensation order)
  • apply to ACAT for an order against the solicitor (if ACAT is satisfied that the solicitor is guilty of unsatisfactory professional conduct or professional misconduct, it in turn may make a range of orders, including to remove the solicitor’s name from the roll, suspend or cancel the solicitor’s practising certificate or impose conditions on it, publicly reprimand the solicitor, impose a fine, require the solicitor to undertake further legal education, etc).

Do any time limits apply for making a complaint to the Society?

The Society cannot deal with a complaint that is made more than three years after the conduct is alleged to have happened.

Complaints falling outside this time limit may be accepted if the Society determines that it is just and fair to deal with the complaint (having regard to the delay and the reasons for the delay), the complaint involves an allegation of professional misconduct, and it is in the public interest to deal with the complaint.

Can I withdraw my complaint?

You can withdraw your complaint if you decide to do so. Your request for the withdrawal of the complaint must be made in writing to the Society.

The Society has the power to continue to investigate matters raised in the complaint, even when you have requested that the complaint be withdrawn. The Society will continue to investigate matters where they involve issues of professional misconduct and it is in the public interest to continue the investigation.


Submit a complaints enquiry

If you would like to make a general enquiry about a possible complaint you can click here to submit an online enquiry to the Society. A member of the professional standards team will provide a response within 4 working days.

If you would like assistance with completing an online complaint form, please contact the Law Society on 02 6274 0300.

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