Matters related to property law were the biggest source of complaints lodged with the Law Society's Lawyers Complaints Service in the year to 30 June 2018.
The latest Annual Report of the New Zealand Law Society has been tabled in Parliament. It shows that property matters made up 18.1% of complaints, followed by trusts and estates (17.9%), family law (17.5%), employment law (9.2%) and civil litigation (9.0%).
The report notes that the areas of law most relevant to personal issues are those where most complaints arise. There was a noticeable increase in the proportion of employment law-related complaints in the 2017/18, up to 9.2% from 5.1% the year before.
In the year to 30 June 2018, 1581 complaints were lodged with the Lawyers Complaints Service. This was up 11.4% on the 1419 complaints lodged in the previous year. Complaints against practising lawyers made up 93% of all complaints received, while 42% of complaints were lodged by clients or former clients of lawyers.
Direction of complaints received by Lawyers Complaints Service, year to 30 June
|Direction of complaint||2018||2017||2016|
|Against non-lawyer employees||45||39||48|
|Against former lawyers||49||28||25|
|Against incorporporated law firms||14||18||23|
|Against former non-lawyer employees||3||1||0|
|Against former incorporated law firms||0||2||0|
Origin of complaints received by Lawyers Complaints Service, year to 30 June
|Client - other side||255||235||289|
|NZLS own motion||115||100||82|
During the year to 30 June 2018, 1319 complaints were resolved and closed. Of these, 82% were not upheld. When complaints which were resolved by negotiation, conciliation or mediation are included, plus those which were withdrawn, 87% of complaints which were investigated and resolved in the 2017/18 year were not upheld.
Complaints resolved and closed, year to 30 June
|Not upheld - no further action||1072||1102||1253|
|Negotiation, conciliation or mediation||42||116||97|
|Withdrawn, discontinued or settled||25||15||45|
|Orders made by lawyers standards committee||183||183||170|
|Complaints outstanding at 30 June||779||516||564|
|Complaints closed during year||1319||1467||1595|
The report says complaints of breach of the Rules of Conduct and Client Care, overcharging and negligence/incompetence are consistently the matters most frequently complained about. Complainants may complain about more than one matter, meaning the total number of types of complaints exceeds the actual number of complaints made.
Between February and 30 June 2018 (the end of the reporting period), lawyers standards committees received 14 separate complaints or reports alleging sexual harassment or other unacceptable behaviour by members of the legal profession.
Most common types of complaint made to Lawyers Complaints Service, year to 30 June
|Breach of Conduct & Client Care Rules||581||522||360|
|Conflict of interest||177||167||153|
|Failure to follow instructions||118||120||128|
|Other conduct issues||105||105||355|