The Lawyers Complaints Service provides a national system for handling all levels of complaints about current or former lawyers, incorporated law firms and their employees.
Complaints may be made about the standard of service received, conduct, costs (only if the bill is over $2,000 and less than two years old, unless there are special circumstances) or failure to comply with an order of the standards committee or Legal Complaints Review Officer.
There is no longer a separate cost revision regime. Clients may complain about fees but this is treated as a costs complaint and, if found to be justified, will result in a finding of unsatisfactory conduct and be recorded on the firm’s or practitioner’s disciplinary record.
People wishing to make a complaint are expected to have first tried using the lawyer’s or law firm’s own complaints process to try to sort out the matter. However, if that proves unsatisfactory or is not appropriate, they will be able to use the Lawyers Complaints Service.
The LCA and associated rules require the New Zealand Law Society to give appropriate publicity to the complaints service and to publish information as to how to access the service and make a complaint, as well as to give reasonable assistance to people wanting to make a complaint.
The complaints process is intended to be transparent, with every stage of the inquiry or investigation made known to the parties and carried out in accordance with the rules of natural justice.
The standards committees have wide powers to deal effectively with complaints and help achieve one of the main purposes of the act – to maintain public confidence in the provision of legal services and to protect consumers.
All complaints made after 1 August 2008 are being actioned under the Complaints Service. However, for conduct that occurred before 1 August 2008, a standards committee can provide only the remedies that would have been available for the same conduct under the Law Practitioners Act 1982.
Lawyers Complaint Service brochure: A brochure for the public is distributed to Citizens Advice Bureau and to community law centres, advising the public about the service. Lawyers and law firms may find it useful to purchase supplies of these brochures to help them meet their client care obligations.
Contact the Lawyers Complaints Service: You can contact the Lawyers Complaints service on 0800 261 801 or by emailing email@example.com.