Legal Profession Uniform Law (NSW) 2014 (LPUL) empowers the Office of the Legal Services Commissioner (OLSC) to assess complaints about the conduct of solicitors and barristers as either "consumer matters" or "disciplinary matters."
Select a link below for more information about the types of complaints that the OLSC can assess.
Consumer matters involve complaints about the conduct of a solicitor or a barrister which do not involve issues of "unsatisfactory professional conduct" or "professional misconduct", and are assessed at being capable of resolution.
A consumer matter may be about:
Disciplinary matters concerning solicitors or barristers are those capable of amounting to "unsatisfactory professional conduct" or "professional misconduct".
Unsatisfactory professional conduct is defined under the LPUL as "conduct (whether consisting of an act or omission) occurring 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 lawyer".
Conduct that may be capable of being unsatisfactory professional conduct includes:
Professional misconduct is defined under the LPUL as either "unsatisfactory professional conduct which involves a substantial or consistent failure to reach or maintain a reasonable standard or competence and diligence or conduct happening in connection with the practice of law or otherwise that would, if established, justify a finding that the lawyer is not a fit and proper person to engage in legal practice".
Conduct that may be capable of being professional misconduct includes:
Professional misconduct can also include conduct outside the practice of law eg being convicted of a serious criminal offence, a tax offence or an offence involving dishonesty or being disqualified from managing or being involved in the management of a corporation under the Corporations Act.
Consumer matters do not involve an issue of unsatisfactory professional conduct or professional misconduct.
Disciplinary matters raise issues of unsatisfactory professional conduct or professional misconduct.
A complaint may involve a consumer matter and an issue of unsatisfactory professional conduct or professional misconduct.
The Tribunal and superior courts have determined that not all negligent acts of a lawyer amount to unsatisfactory professional conduct or professional misconduct warranting disciplinary action. For example:
The dividing line between acts that may be negligent but not unsatisfactory professional conduct or professional misconduct is not clear. In the experience of the OLSC, very few complaints of negligence amount to unsatisfactory professional conduct or professional misconduct.
Our fact sheet on
Negligence [PDF, 67Kb] provides more information.