What types of complaints will the Law Society deal with?
Through its disciplinary process the Law Society deals with matters relating to the professional conduct of lawyers. For example, issues relating to a lawyer’s failure to reply to communications; failure to report on a transaction; unreasonable or unexplained delays; improper handling of trust funds and misleading, rude and/or discriminatory behavior are matters involving lawyers’ professional conduct. This is not an exhaustive list but merely illustrates the type of conduct regulated.
The disciplinary process will not result in compensation to the complainant.
Is your complaint confidential?
The Law Society cannot guarantee the information that you or any other person provides will remain confidential because:
- We must share some or all of the information with the lawyer you are complaining about;
- We may give copies of documents received from you and any other person to the lawyer; and
- We may share personal information (such as names, addresses and telephone numbers) with the lawyer.
Can you complain about someone else’s lawyer?
The Law Society cannot intervene in the conduct of another party’s lawyer unless the lawyer has breached the Code of Professional Conduct which all lawyers must follow. What may appear as improper conduct to someone who is involved in a dispute may well be conduct which does not breach those rules. In most cases, lawyers are acting in the best interests of their clients and in accordance with their clients’ instructions. Lawyers are under a duty to act according to their client’s instructions and to keep information and instructions received from their clients confidential. The Law Society cannot interfere with these duties.
If your complaint arises out of Court proceedings, please note that Court proceedings are, by their very nature, adversarial. The issues are often very personal and unsettling and emotions can run high. One side may be unhappy with the other side’s lawyer. However, it is important to realize that matters involving Court proceedings are regulated by the Rules of Court, as well as by the general practice of the Courts. If one side is not “playing by the rules”, the other side usually has a remedy through the Court. In most cases, it is for the Court to decide on the conduct of Court proceedings. The Law Society cannot interfere with the legal process.
For the above reasons, it is essential that you discuss your complaint with your own lawyer, if you have one, to determine whether your lawyer shares your view that a complaint to the Law Society is appropriate.
As the Law Society cannot help you with every kind of complaint, here is some information about other resources which may be able to help you:
- The Law Society cannot provide legal advice. If you need legal services, you need to see a lawyer.
- If you believe you are the victim of a crime, contact the police.
- If you have concerns about the outcome of your legal case you should discuss your concerns with your lawyer or speak to a senior member of your lawyer’s firm. A law firm is interested in keeping its clients happy.
- If you have lost confidence in your lawyer you can retain another lawyer. You will probably be required to settle the first lawyer’s account before you can obtain your file and before a second lawyer will take your case.
- For legal information and assistance in finding a lawyer, you may contact the Public Legal Information Association of Newfoundland and Labrador (PLIAN), toll free at 1-888-660-7788 or visit their website.
- Under certain circumstances you may qualify for Legal Aid. You may contact the Newfoundland and Labrador Legal Aid Commission, toll free at 1-800-563-9911 or visit their website.
- The Law Society cannot reduce your bill, but the law firm may do so in appropriate cases.
- If you believe the fees charged by your lawyer were too high, you may request an itemized account from your lawyer.
- If you are unable to resolve your concerns with your lawyer directly, you may apply to have the fees reviewed through the taxation process.
Lawyer Negligence (saying that your lawyer made a mistake)
- The Law Society cannot pay you money or make a lawyer pay you money because of the lawyer’s mistake.
- Your complaint to the Law Society regarding a lawyer’s conduct does not amount to your making a claim against that lawyer with respect to potential negligence on their part.
- If you believe that your lawyer was negligent, you may wish to seek legal advice about your options, bearing in mind that limitation periods exist after which you will not be able to pursue your claim.
- Information about how the Lawyers’ Insurance Program works may be found in the insurance section of the website.
How do you file a complaint with the Law Society?
- Provide a signed original letter of complaint. The Law Society is unable to proceed with a complaint that is not in writing.
- Be factual. Give a brief description of the events that have occurred and on what dates.
- Attach a copy of any documents that relate to your complaint.
- Please do not send original documents
- Send the letter of complaint with copies of relevant documentation to:
Director of Professional Responsibility
Law Society of Newfoundland and Labrador
PO Box 1028
St. John’s, NL A1C 5M3