What happens after a complaint has been investigated?
On completion of an investigation, there are a number of options available depending on the nature of the conduct complained of and the available evidence.
1. The complaint may be closed, for any of the reasons set out in section 277 of the Legal Profession Uniform Law (NSW).
2. If the Commissioner finds the lawyer has engaged in unsatisfactory professional conduct, he may make various orders under section 299 of the Uniform Law including an order cautioning or reprimanding the lawyer, an order requiring an apology from the lawyer, an order requiring the lawyer to undertake training or counselling or be supervised, an order requiring the lawyer to pay a fine (not exceeding $25,000.00) or an order recommending the imposition of specified conditions on the lawyer's practising certificate.
3. 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 and Administrative Tribunal (the disciplinary Tribunal), he may Initiate and prosecute disciplinary proceedings in the Tribunal – section 300(1)(a) of the Uniform Law.
4. If the Commissioner is of the opinion that the alleged conduct may amount to professional misconduct, he may initiate and prosecute proceedings in disciplinary Tribunal – section 300(1)(b) of the Uniform Law. In addition to the orders available under section 299, the Tribunal may make orders suspending or cancelling the lawyer's practising certificate, and/or that their practice be managed or subject to periodic inspection for a specified period. The Tribunal may order a fine of up to $100,000.00 if a lawyer is found guilty of professional misconduct. In very serious cases, the Tribunal may make an order recommending removal of the lawyer's name from the Roll of lawyers maintained by the Supreme Court, meaning they can no longer engage in legal practice – section 302 of the Uniform Law.
A decision of the Disciplinary Tribunal may be appealed to the Supreme Court of New South Wales, Court of Appeal.
Decisions made by the Disciplinary Tribunal may be viewed on the Disciplinary Tribunal's website.