New Zealand Law Society - Complaining about a lawyer

Complaining about a lawyer

You can contact the Lawyers Complaints service on 0800 261 801.

The Lawyers Complaints Service can provide you with information about your rights and options if you are unsure whether you have grounds for making a complaint. 

The Law Society is responsible for regulating lawyers who practise law in New Zealand. It operates the Lawyers Complaints Service. The Service handles all complaints about:

  • Lawyers or former lawyers;
  • Incorporated law firms or former incorporated law firms;
  • People who are not lawyers but who are or were an employee of a lawyer or an incorporated law firm.

Complaints about former lawyers/incorporated law firms can only be made if the conduct complained about occurred when the person concerned was a lawyer.

All lawyers must have procedures for handling complaints and they must tell their clients about those procedures before they commence work for the client.

New rules tackling bullying and harassment

New rules governing the behaviour of lawyers, with an emphasis on tackling bullying and harassment, came into force on 1 July 2021.

Read more about the rules.


Standards and the legal profession

New Zealand lawyers are required to act at all times in accordance with the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act (Lawyers: Conduct and Client Care) Rules 2008. These outline the obligations lawyers owe to clients. The obligations are subject to other overriding duties, including duties to the courts and to the justice system.

The Rules are binding on all lawyers and provide guidance around the boundaries within which a lawyer may practise. Within these boundaries, each lawyer needs to be guided by his or her own sense of professional responsibility. The Law Society's Ethics Committee provides guidance to lawyers on the application or interpretation of the Rules in certain circumstances.

The Rules are based on the fundamental obligations of lawyers, which are set out in section 4 of the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act 2006. These are:

  • To uphold the rule of law and to facilitate the administration of justice in New Zealand.
  • To be independent in providing regulated services to clients.
  • To act in accordance with all fiduciary duties and duties of care owed by lawyers to their clients.
  • To protect, subject to overriding duties as officers of the High Court and to duties under any enactment, the interests of clients.

Whatever legal services your lawyer provides, he or she must:

  • Act competently, in a timely way, and in accordance with instructions received and arrangements made.
  • Protect and promote your interests and act for you free from compromising influences or loyalties.
  • Discuss with you your objectives and how they should best be achieved.
  • Give you information about the work to be done, who will do it, and the way the services will be provided.
  • Charge you a fee that is fair and reasonable and let you know how and when you will be billed.
  • Give you clear information and advice.
  • Protect your privacy and ensure appropriate confidentiality.
  • Treat you fairly, respectfully and without discrimination.
  • Keep you informed about the work being done and advise you when it is completed.
  • Let you know how to make a complaint and deal with any complaint promptly and fairly.

If your lawyer does not meet these standards you can raise the matter directly with him or her through their internal complaints process. If this does not resolve matters, you can consider lodging a concern or laying a complaint with the Lawyers Complaints Service.

More information

Contact the Lawyers Complaints Service: The Lawyers Complaints Service will provide you with assistance and information in relation to complaints. This includes information about your rights and options if you are unsure whether you have grounds for making a complaint. You can contact the Lawyers Complaints Service on 0800 261 801 or by emailing

Advise us of your concern: use the online Concerns Form, and a Professional Standards Officer will ring to talk to you.

Lawyers Complaints Service brochure: Download the brochure (PDF) or you can request a copy by phoning 0800 261 801 or emailing us on

Complaint Form: If you decide to make a complaint, you can download the Complaint Form (PDF). You can also request a copy by phoning 0800 261 801 or emailing us on

Complaints about the Lawyers Complaints Service: please refer to the handling policy.