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How your complaint is processed

1. Receipt of complaint

When a complaint is received it is acknowledged and checked to see that all required information has been included and that it is valid. It will be assessed to see if it can be referred to the Early Resolution Service.

2. Complaint sent to Lawyers Standards Committee

If the complaint is not suitable for the Early Resolution Service, it will be sent to a Standards Committee for consideration. At the same time, a copy will be sent to the lawyer being complained about and he or she will have the right to make a written submission to the Standards Committee.

3. Lawyers Standards Committee considers complaint

The Standards Committee has three options:

  • It may inquire into the complaint; or
  • It may ask the person who has made the complaint and the lawyer being complained about to consider resolving matters by negotiation, conciliation or mediation; or
  • It may decide to take no action.

4. Lawyers Standards Committee makes decision after inquiry

If a Standards Committee decides to inquire into a complaint, it can determine that:

  • No further action is warranted; or
  • There has been unsatisfactory conduct on the part of the lawyer; or
  • The complaint is so serious that it should be referred to the New Zealand Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal.

Whatever determination a Standards Committee makes, the complainant will be informed of the decision and the reasons for it.

5. Lawyers Standards Committee makes orders if unsatisfactory conduct finding is made

If the Standards Committee decides that the lawyer’s conduct was unsatisfactory:

  • It may make an order formally confirming the terms of an agreed settlement resulting from negotiation, conciliation or mediation.
  • It may censure or reprimand the lawyer.
  • It may order the lawyer to:
  • Apologise to the complainant;
  • Pay the complainant compensation (up to a maximum of $25,000) for actual loss;
  • Reduce, cancel or refund some or all of the fees they charged the complainant;
  • Rectify any errors or omissions at his or her own expense;
  • Pay a fine of up to $15,000;
  • Pay the complainant for expenses incurred in making the complaint.

The Standards Committee may make one or more of these orders in respect of any one finding. It can also make other orders aimed at improving the lawyer’s standard of practice.

6. Review of a Lawyers Standards Committee decision

If the complainant or a lawyer who is the subject of a complaint does not agree with a Standards Committee decision, they may ask the Legal Complaints Review Officer at the Ministry of Justice to review that decision.

The Legal Complaints Review Officer (LCRO) can make any order a Standards Committee can make, including confirming or changing the Standards Committee’s decision. The LCRO can also refer a matter to the New Zealand Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal or back to the Standards Committee.

Last updated on the 3rd June 2015