Complaints we can help with

We might be able to help you resolve problems you may have had with the service you have received from your lawyer, or the costs they have charged.

You should try to do this yourself first, but if that does not work then contact us straight away. There are time and money limits in a costs dispute. It is important not to delay raising your concerns with them and with us.

Reporting or complaining about inappropriate behaviour

If you have experienced or witnessed harassment, discrimination or bullying by a lawyer or someone in a legal setting, but do not want to make a formal complaint, you can contact the Legal Practice Board informally and anonymously here.

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Time and money limits in costs disputes

Time limits

To dispute the costs charged by your lawyer, make your complaint to us quickly. If you leave it too long, we may not be able to assist you.

When we receive a costs dispute, our role id to try and help the parties resolve it as informally and quickly as we can.

We may be able to look at other options to resolve the dispute if you first saw your lawyer after 30 June 2022. However if you first saw your lawyer before 1 July 2022 we can’t make any decisions about your dispute.

Generally, you need to dispute your costs with us:

  • within 60 days of receiving any lump sum bill
  • within 30 days of receiving an itemised bill if you requested one.

In certain cases, we may be able to extend these by up to 4 months but we will need a good reason. Not all requests will be successful.

You should also be aware that if you do not pay a bill for 30 days, a lawyer can take action to recover that outstanding money.  They can also hold on to any documents that they have produced for you until you pay. These are good reasons to pay the bill and make a complaint promptly.

Money limits

Generally, we can try to help you with a costs dispute where:

  • the total legal costs are up to $185,460
  • you are disputing a part of costs up to $18,550 where the total legal costs are more than $185,460.

These cost limits are indexed and may vary at the start of each financial year.

Non-cost related complaints time limits

Complaints about lawyers for non-cost issues must be made within 3 years.

In a few cases, we may look at complaints older than that but there will need to be good reasons.

Complaints we can’t help with

We can’t:

  • give legal advice
  • give a second opinion on your lawyer’s advice
  • change the outcome of a legal or court case
  • act on complaints about legal processes or judges.

We look at complaints about lawyers only.

Other lawyers

We deal mostly with complaints from people about their own lawyers. There are only limited occasions when we can help with complaints about lawyers acting for other people. A lawyer who is acting for someone else has a duty to follow their client’s instructions and act in their best interest, not yours.  

Also a complaint cannot be used to learn anything about the dealings between a client and their lawyer. Their business is private between them.

Sometimes in a case involving children an Independent Children’s Lawyer (ICL) is required.

An ICL is appointed and supervised by the Family Court. Therefore if you want to make a complaint about an ICL you will need to do this with the Court.

More information about the role of an ICL is available on the Court’s website.

Court cases

Generally, we can’t help you with anything that is currently part of an ongoing court case, or bring up a concern with us that should be brought up with the court

You can complain about a lawyer after a court case if the court has said that a lawyer has done something that they should not have. However, if the court did not express any concerns then we are unlikely to look at it further.

Case history

We cannot examine a legal case to check whether something could have been done differently or whether there may have been any mistakes made. We will only consider specific allegations that you will need to raise with us directly.