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Making a complaint

Select a link below for more information about making a complaint to the OLSC.

     

    Should I speak to someone at the OLSC before I make a complaint?

    Yes. The OLSC has an Inquiry Line to help and answer questions you may have about your complaint.

    The OLSC recommends that you first contact us before making a formal complaint.  The Inquiry Line can be contacted on toll free 1800 242 958 or (02) 9377 1800.  The Inquiry Line can assist you in resolving the dispute between you and your solicitor or barrister.

    How do I make a complaint?

    Complaints must be made in writing by the complainant or a person on his/her behalf. The complaint must name the solicitor or barrister complained about and describe the alleged conduct that is the subject of the complaint.

    Download a complaint form or alternatively you can write a letter setting out the details of your complaint.

    What do I need to provide with my complaint?

    You will need to provide photocopies of any relevant documents that support your complaint. Please do not send originals.

    Who can make a complaint?

    Any person who has had concerns about the conduct of a solicitor or a barrister can make a complaint. If you are making a complaint on behalf of another person, such as a relative or friend, you will need to tell us their name and your relationship to them and provide their authority in writing.

    Who can I make a complaint about?

    You can complain about a solicitor or barrister practising in New South Wales.

    What sort of complaints can the OLSC deal with?

    The OLSC can deal with any complaint alleging, for example:

    • Poor communication
    • Lawyers bills
    • Handling of documents
    • Poor service including delay, mistakes
    • Misleading conduct
    • Acting with a conflict of interest
    • Not following instructions
    • Discourtesy

    Is there a time limit to make a complaint?

    A complaint must be lodged within three (3) years of the conduct that is alleged to have occurred. However, the OLSC may deal with a complaint "out of time" if the Legal Services Commissioner determines:

    1. It is just and fair to do so having regard to the delay and the reason for that delay; or
    2. The complaint concerns an allegation of professional misconduct and it is in the public interest to investigate the complaint.

    Costs disputes must be lodged within 2 months of receiving the bill though this time may be extended by 4 months in certain circumstances.

    A copy of the complaint will usually be forwarded to the lawyer for submissions as to whether the OLSC should accept the complaint out of time.

    What is the OLSC unable to deal with?

    The OLSC cannot deal with complaints where the matter is:

    How do I make a complaint about a lawyer's bill?

    The OLSC can assist lawyers and their clients in attempting to resolve disputes over legal costs and may, in suitable cases, facilitate mediation of a costs dispute.  This is how most complaints about costs are handled.  Mediation is mostly an informal process and extends to encompass preliminary assistance in dispute resolution, such as the giving of informal advice designed to ensure that the parties are fully aware of their rights and obligations and that there is full and open communication between the parties concerning the dispute.  It is not the role of the OLSC to assess the fairness and reasonableness of costs above $10,000 and the OLSC cannot determine the amount of costs that should be paid to a lawyer beyond that limit​.  That is done by the Costs Assessment Section of the Supreme Court of New South Wales.  Our fact sheet on Costs Disputes [PDF, 79Kb]​ has more information.

    The charging of grossly excessive legal costs is capable of being unsatisfactory professional conduct or professional misconduct and the OLSC may investigate complaints of such overcharging to determine whether disciplinary action should be taken against the lawyer involved.  The consideration of whether charging is so excessive as to be unsatisfactory professional conduct or professional misconduct involves a comparison of two figures:  the amount in fact charged and the amount which was, in all the circumstances, a reasonable amount to charge, followed by an evaluation of whether the overcharging was so excessive as to be characterised as "gross".  This can involve the requirement to obtain expert evidence such as cost consultants and the like to determine the reasonable amount, which can be time and resource costly. 

    Complaints about a lawyer's bill should be made using the Complaint Form.  Complainants should provide copies of any costs agreement and the bill(s) in dispute, and explain why the costs are disputed.