About complaints

Anyone can make a complaint to the Commissioner about a lawyer practising in South Australia. 

A complaint can be about a lawyer’s conduct, or the fees charged.

A complaint will usually be made by the lawyer's client, but it can also be made by a third party who is otherwise impacted by the lawyer's conduct or fees. 

Generally, a complaint against a lawyer relates to:

Not all types of complaints amount to misconduct.  For example, the fact that a lawyer has simply made a mistake will not in itself usually amount to misconduct.

A complaint must be submitted in writing, ideally using the complaint form.  To constitute a proper complaint, the complaint must:

  • identify the complainant; and 
  • if possible identify the legal practitioner or former legal practitioner about whom the complaint is made; and 
  • describe the alleged conduct the subject of the complaint.  

A complaint must be made within 3 years of the conduct that is the subject of the complaint, or such longer period as the Commissioner may allow. 

A person who has been declared by the Supreme Court to be a vexatious litigant is not able to make a complaint.  

The Commissioner’s office treats every complaint seriously and follows a thorough investigative process. If an investigation leads to the conclusion that the lawyer has been guilty of misconduct, then the Commissioner will take disciplinary action.

If the Commissioner receives a complaint about a lawyer that complies with the requirements set out above, then he generally must investigate that complaint. However, in some limited circumstances he may decide to close a complaint without investigating it (or without completing the investigation) - for example, where:

  • it is outside of the Commissioner’s jurisdiction
  • the Commissioner determines that it is frivolous or lacking substance
  • the complainant does not respond adequately to a request for further information
  • the complainant does not cooperate in the investigation or conciliation of the complaint
  • it is in the public interest to close the complaint.