New Zealand Law Society - Lawyers Complaints Service

Lawyers Complaints Service

Most people are satisfied with their lawyer, but sometimes things can go wrong. If you are concerned about a lawyer’s service, costs or conduct, you can make a complaint about them to the Lawyers Complaints Service.

Who can make a complaint? 

Anyone may make a complaint to the Lawyers Complaints Service. A complaint can be made against:

  • 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.

On this page, the above categories are referred to as “lawyer”.

Complaints about former lawyers/incorporated law firms can only be made if the person was a lawyer at the time that the conduct occurred.

When should I contact the Lawyers Complaints Service?

If you are having issues with a lawyer, we recommend you try to resolve these with the lawyer or law firm first. It is a good idea to raise any concerns as early as possible.

All lawyers have their own procedures for handling complaints and they are required to tell clients about them before starting to act/work. Using those procedures is usually the quickest and most effective way of resolving any issues.

If you are unable to resolve the issues, you can contact the Lawyers Complaints Service about making a formal complaint. They have information they can provide to you before a complaint is made to help you understand what is involved.

What can be complained about?

You can complain about:

  • A lawyer’s conduct – for example, if you believe the lawyer has a conflict of interest or has treated you in an unprofessional way.

  • Poor service – for example, if your lawyer has:

    • not done what they said they would do

    • involved you in unreasonable delays

    • given you wrong or incomplete information

    • failed to reply to phone calls and letters

    • not kept you informed about the work they are doing for you.

  • Fees – if you consider a lawyer’s bill is too high. However, the Lawyers Complaints Service will only investigate if the bill is for more than $2,000 (GST exclusive) or less than 2 years old, unless special circumstances apply.

  • Failure to comply with orders – you may also make a complaint if a lawyer fails to comply with any order or final determination made under the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act 2006 by a Lawyers Standards Committee or the Legal Complaints Review Officer.

Time limit on complaints

The Lawyers Complaints Service can only consider complaints about conduct that occurred after 1 August 2002 and can only consider complaints about conduct that occurred before 1 August 2008 if that conduct has not already been investigated under the Law Practitioners Act 1982.

The Lawyers Complaints Service cannot:

  • give you legal advice or a second opinion on legal advice you have received
  • inquire into the outcome of or assist with court cases
  • consider complaints about judges. These are dealt with by the Judicial Conduct Commissioner (phone 0800 800 3232 or see
  • handle claims on the Lawyers’ Fidelity Fund. This fund is available to help compensate people who have lost money or property as a result of theft by a lawyer, law firm or one of their employees or agents. For information about the fund, see or phone 04 472 7837 or email

There are also other types of complaints which the Lawyers Complaints Service can’t consider. Find out more about grounds for complaint.

How do I make a complaint?

If you are unsure whether you have grounds for making a complaint, you can visit our website. If you still have questions, you can contact the Lawyers Complaint Service on 0800 261 801.

It doesn’t cost anything to make a complaint, but they must be in writing and certain information is needed. The complaints form will help you provide all the required information. Find out more about how to make a complaint.

What happens to my complaint after it is received?

When the Lawyers Complaints Service receives your complaint, it will acknowledge receipt and ensure that it meets the requirements to be accepted.

If the complaint is accepted it will be allocated to a Standards Committee. A copy of the complaint and any information you provide is given to the person or firm you have complained about.

The Standards Committee, which must consist of at least two lawyers and one non-lawyer member, may:

  • inquire into the complaint.
  • ask you and the lawyer you are complaining about to consider trying to resolve matters by negotiation, conciliation or mediation.
  • decide that no action will be taken.

There are a number of different outcomes for a complaint, depending on the circumstances.

Complaints can be referred to the Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal. You will be informed about what the Standards Committee decides.

You can ask the Legal Complaints Review Officer to review the decision on your complaint if you are dissatisfied.

Find out more about how your complaint is processed, or

  • Email:, or
  • Write to: the Lawyers Complaints Service at PO Box 5041, Lambton Quay, Wellington 6140, or
  • Call the Lawyers Complaints Service on 0800 261 801