Office of the NSW Legal Services Commissioner > Inappropriate Personal Conduct > Formal complaints about inappropriate personal conduct

​Formal complaints about inappropriate personal conduct

The OLSC has prepared a Fact Sheet explaining how to make a formal complaint about inappropriate personal conduct.

The OLSC has the power to investigate inappropriate personal conduct by a lawyer under the Legal Profession Uniform Law (NSW) (Uniform Law) once a formal complaint has been made.  Formal complaints may result in disciplinary action being taken against the lawyer who engaged in the inappropriate personal conduct.

How the OLSC deals with a formal complaint

These are the usual steps in dealing with a formal complaint about inappropriate personal conduct.

Following receipt of a complaint, the OLSC conducts a preliminary assessment.  We will contact the complainant during preliminary assessment and before progressing the complaint any further.

After preliminary assessment, the complaint may be closed without further consideration of its merits, without any investigation or without completing an investigation, or an investigation may be commenced.  If an investigation is commenced, the lawyer is notified of the complaint and must, as soon as practicable, be given a summary or details of the complaint and a notice informing them of their right to make submissions.  It is the OLSC's usual practice to give the lawyer a complete copy of the complaint.  However, there may be good reasons in a particular matter to provide only an edited summary.

When the submissions from the lawyer are received they are ordinarily forwarded to the complainant for comment.  Information may also be sought from persons other than the lawyer.

Please see our Fact Sheet for more details regarding the formal complaints process.

Possible outcomes of a formal complaint

On completion of an investigation, there are a number of possible outcomes depending on the nature of the conduct complained of and the available evidence.

(i) The file may be closed, for various reasons, including if the complaint is found not to have reached the threshold for disciplinary action.

(ii)  If the Commissioner finds the lawyer has engaged in unsatisfactory professional conduct, he may make various orders in relation to that conduct.

(iii)  If the Commissioner is of the opinion that the conduct may amount to unsatisfactory professional conduct that would be more appropriately dealt with by the Occupational Division of the NSW Civil & Administrative Tribunal (the Disciplinary Tribunal), he may initiate and prosecute disciplinary proceedings in the Tribunal.  A complainant may be required to give evidence in the proceedings.

(iv)  If the Commissioner is of the opinion that the alleged conduct may amount to professional misconduct, he may initiate and prosecute proceedings in the disciplinary Tribunal.  As noted above, a complainant may be required to give evidence in the proceedings.  In addition to the orders available to the Commissioner (outlined in (ii) above), the Tribunal may make orders restricting the lawyer's entitlement to practice.

The complainant and the lawyer will be given written notification of the Commissioner's decision, and a statement of reasons for the decision.  Disciplinary action taken against a lawyer may be published on the Register of Disciplinary Action maintained by the OLSC, which is accessible to members of the public.