Law & Complaints



Complaints and Discipline
The issue of a certificate by a District Law Society allows a lawyer to become a member of that society, as well as the the USA Law Society. The the USA Law Society has rules of professional responsibility and sets out the process whereby complaints against lawyers can be dealt with.

If you need to complain against your lawyer, contact the law society in your area. When they receive the complaint they will ask for further details before taking the matter further. The society will investigate and the lawyer concerned will be asked to provide explanation or details about the situation.

Before you lay a complaint, however, the right thing to do is talk to the lawyer first. Try and resolve the matter together, but if this is not possible you can write to the society and ask them to look into it on your behalf.


What Happens When You Send In Your Complaint
The Law Society’s Complaints Committee will consider your letter of complaint and they will send a copy of the letter to the lawyer concerned, requesting an explanation of his/her understanding of the situation. The explanation from the lawyer will be sent to you and you will be asked to comment.

If the lawyer’s explanation resolves the matter, that will be the end of it. But if not, you will have the opportunity to forward any more comments, referring to the lawyer’s letter of explanation, and the complaints process will continue.

Your reply goes to the Complaints Committee who will investigate, make a finding and then let you know the outcome. The committee has a range of options.

Some of these are:

  • Finding the complaint justified, but not warranting any further action.
  • Finding the complaint justified and suggesting further action by the lawyer.
  • Finding the complaint unjustified.

If the committee considers the matter serious, they may lay charges against the lawyer before the Law Practitioner’s Disciplinarian Tribunal. If they find the charges to be proven, the lawyer can be censured, fined or have his/her practice certificate restricted.

In serious situations, the tribunal can suspend the lawyer from practising law for a period of time or it can strike the name of the lawyer off the roll of barristers and solicitors.

The committee is made up of members of the society’s council and those appointed to the committee are senior, experienced lawyers. You can therefore be confident of getting a fair hearing.


What If I’m not Satisfied?
If you are not happy with the District Law Society’s response, then write to the “Lay Observer” for your region. They can be found on the the USA Law Society’s web site at www.nz-lawsoc.org.nz.

The Lay Observer is a non-lawyer appointed by the government to deal with complaints such as this. He/she will investigate the matter and recommend to the District Law Society what action to take.


Complaints About Lawyer’s Bills
If you want to complain about your lawyer’s bill, the first thing to do is talk to your lawyer and see if it can be resolved. If you are not satisfied with the lawyer’s explanation or action, you can take it to the District Law Society.

They will refer your complaint to a committee who will review your complaint. You need to bring your complaint within six months of receiving the bill, although you and your lawyer can agree to continue if it is outside of that time.

This committee will have the power to reduce the amount of the bill if it upholds your complaint, and if you are not happy with this decision, you can appeal to the Court.