The system for dealing with complaints against lawyers needs an overhaul, according to an Issues Paper released today by the NSW Law Reform Commission.
The Law Reform Commission has been asked by the NSW Attorney General to review the system after the High Court described parts of the governing legislation as unworkable and overly technical, blaming this for unacceptable delays in some cases. Legal consumers and key institutions, the Law Society, the Bar Association and the Legal Services Commissioner have also criticised the system.
The Issues Paper gives everyone in the community an opportunity to make suggestions for improving the system.
The Legal Services Commissioner, an independent statutory officer, currently receives about 3,000 complaints a year. The majority of these are referred to the Law Society and Bar Council, associations which represent lawyers, for action.
'Concerns have been raised that some complaints are not being properly dealt with because of the way some investigations have been conducted and because of technicalities in the legislation' said Justice Michael Adams, Chair of the Law Reform Commission. 'The community needs a fair, credible and effective complaints and disciplinary system for lawyers'.
Issues raised by the Commission include what constitutes 'misconduct', how investigations can adapt as information is collected and how to compel lawyers to co operate when complaints are made against them. The Commission also considers the appropriate role for the Law Society and the Bar Association in the system.
Anyone who wants to make a submission can get copies of the Issues Paper from the Commission by phoning (02)9228 8230 or going to the Commission's web page at
Media contact: Justice Adams, Chairperson - (02) 9230 8737