As a lawyer, you are required to submit a confidential report to the Law Society if you have reasonable grounds to suspect another lawyer may have engaged in misconduct. You can also provide a report if you have reasonable grounds to suspect another lawyer may have engaged in unsatisfactory conduct.
These obligations flow from rules 2.8 and 2.9 of the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act (Lawyers: Conduct and Client Care) Rules 2008:
The reporting lawyer does not have a responsibility to make a definitive decision on whether the conduct in question is ‘misconduct’ or ‘unsatisfactory conduct’. The question instead is how would a reasonable lawyer knowing all the relevant facts view the conduct.
Misconduct includes conduct which would reasonably be regarded by lawyers of good standing as disgraceful or dishonourable.
It might also consist of a wilful or reckless breach of any practising condition or restriction or of any regulation or practice rule relating to the provision of regulated services. Sexual harassment or assault, discrimination or bullying may amount to misconduct.
Misconduct can also include, but is not limited to, criminal convictions and addictive or prohibited behaviour that impairs a lawyer’s ability to provide legal services, such as drugs, or excessive gambling or alcohol use.
The definition of misconduct can be found on the legislation website.
Unsatisfactory conduct includes conduct which falls short of the standard of competence of diligence expected of a reasonably competent lawyer or conduct that lawyers of good standing would regard as unbecoming or unprofessional.
It can also include a contravention of a practising condition or restriction. It might also include a breach of any relevant provision or regulation relating to the provision of regulated services.
The definition of unsatisfactory conduct can be found on the legislation website.
You can also choose to report any other concerns you have regarding the conduct of another lawyer to the Law Society so it can consider whether it needs to do something about it. This could include concerns regarding their health or welfare that may be impacting their ability to practise or any other concerns regarding the operation of a law firm and its employees.
You may wish to consider discussing the matter with an experienced practitioner from the National Friends Panel on a confidential basis, in advance of submitting your report. They have experience in ethical matters and may be able to assist with your concerns.
See the LawTalk article 'What tools does the Law Society currently have for the reporting of unacceptable conduct?'
If you are not a lawyer but have a concern about a lawyer, please visit the Lawyers Complaints Service for information on how we can help.