New Zealand Law Society

Navigation menu

Lawyers Complaints Service, 2010 to 2015

08 December 2015

Clients or former clients of lawyers are responsible for just under half the complaints lodged with the Lawyers Complaints Service operated by the New Zealand Law Society, although there has been a slight decline in the proportion of complaints from clients since 2010.

Information reported by the New Zealand Law Society in its annual reports on the exercise of its regulatory functions also shows that allegations of negligence or incompetence is the most frequent complaint subject.

The information summarised below is for the years to 30 June and brings together information reported by the Law Society. The first report under the new regulatory system was for the 11 month period ending 30 June 2009 and is not included.

Origin of complaints to Lawyers Complaints Service, year to 30 June

Client/former client768812979886796844
Client - other side279309262187167149
Third party190166184237245185
NZLS own motion122971001228157
Regulatory authority724384


Client/former client47.7%49.8%55.4%54.5%52.8%57.8%
Client - other side17.3%19.0%14.8%11.5%11.1%10.2%
Third party11.8%10.2%10.4%14.6%16.2%12.7%
NZLS own motion7.6%6.0%5.7%7.5%5.4%3.9%
Regulatory authority0.4%0.1%0.2%0.2%0.5%0.3%

Direction of complaint, year to 30 June

Under section 121 of the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act 2006, the Law Society's Lawyers Complaints Service is required to receive complaints about (existing or former) lawyers, law firms and employees of lawyers.

Direction of complaint201520142013201220112010
Against lawyers152814981675153614191381
Against former lawyers343636304756
Against non-lawyer employees293233412316
Against former non-lawyer employees031163
Against incorporated law firms20612117144
Against former incorporated law firms000001


Direction of complaint201520142013201220112010
Against lawyers94.8%91.9%94.8%94.5%94.0%94.5%
Against former lawyers2.1%2.2%2.0%1.8%3.1%3.8%
Against non-lawyer employees1.8%2.0%1.9%2.5%1.5%1.1%
Against former non-lawyer employees0.0%0.2%0.1%0.1%0.4%0.2%
Against incorporated law firms1.2%3.7%1.2%1.0%0.9%0.3%
Against former incorporated law firms0.0%0.0%0.0%0.0%0.0%0.1%

Main area of law in which complaints arise, year to 30 June

Data on this has only been published since 2013.

Trusts and estates21.0%18.3%15.1%
Civil litigation13.2%9.6%11.5%
Banking and finance1.3%2.3%1.0%

Nature of complaints, year to 30 June

More than one type of conduct might be complained against in one complaint. Looking at the most complained about conduct in the 2014/15 year, 17% of complaints were about negligence/incompetence, 11% were about breach of the Rules of Conduct and Client Care, 10% were about  inadequate reporting/communications, and 9% were about overcharging.

Type of conduct201520142013201220112010
Inadequate reporting/communications495429257289227243
Breach of RCCC Rules523318308374378336
Failure to follow instructions231247175117109142
Misleading conduct28622512593120112
Unbecoming conduct89190138314057
Other conduct issues391190420474326265
Conflict of interest191179124126127117
Other service issues15287135183190121
Acting without instruction867653595869
Refusing to hand over documents1015930483528
Financial assurance issues865623233018
Improper conduct in Court815348324436
Breach of confidentiality674236313327
Not complying with LCA/Regs1253671964346
Obstructing legal regulatory process1673050211817
Breach of undertaking301741362338
Lack of supervision21151836811
Failure to comply with an order241176910
Related to nominee company12214000
Failing to pay instructed third party10105689
Criminal conviction1105844
Failure to pay third party1571012915
Not admitted to practice16110046
Practising outside of PC parameters1426328

Resolution of complaints, year to 30 June

In about 74% of complaints, after full investigation with the complainant and the person complained about there is a decision to take no further action. A further 9% are resolved by negotiation, conciliation or mediation, and a further 4% are withdrawn, discontinued or settled. The result is that in around 87% of complaints which are investigated, the final decision is that no action is required.

Decision to take no action113712801325114011441061
Referred to and resolved by negotiation, conciliation
or mediation
Withdrawn, discontinued or settled6477114674690
Orders made by Standards Committee18618146343576
Complaints outstanding at 30 June702622739914820702
Complaints closed during year152917471942154014031377

Orders made by Lawyers Standards Committees, year to 30 June

A lawyers standards committee may make more than one order for each complaint it considers. For example, lawyers standards committees made 366 orders in 186 complaints in the year to 30 June 2015.

Orders Made201520142013201220112010
Pay costs (by lawyer to NZLS)91115978811072
Pay fine to NZLS8797124866141
Pay to NZLS inquiry costs & expenses303966572628
Compensation ordered261611171910
Fees cancelled/refunded2216181497
Apology ordered181523301217
Fees reduced181318181612
Pay complainants costs & expenses5812955
Practical training463153
No further action but costs s 157 LCA 20063115000
Practice management advice331343
Rectify error247452
Police/SFO referral110000
Inspection of firm031261
Intervention in practice010000
NZLS to pay costs to lawyer004000
Other remedy0024000


Before the national regulatory system introduced by the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act 2006, complaints were resolved by District Law Societies. Each of the 14 district law societies was responsible for administering complaints resolution in its area. There was no requirement to report publicly.


Last updated on the 11th December 2015