How to complain
Every lawyer and conveyancer must have a complaints process. If they haven't made this clear to you, ask them what their process is.
Before you complain:
- Gather proof, eg emails and letters, dates and details of conversations, invoices.
- Think about what you will say, eg take notes with dates and what happened to make your situation clear.
- Decide your ideal outcome, eg a refund or reduction in your bill, an apology, financial compensation for any losses.
When you complain:
- Put it in writing — either by email or letter, including the date. Keep a copy yourself in case you need evidence of your complaint.
- Stick to the facts — explain the problem in detail and provide any evidence you have.
- Take time out, if needed — if the conversation gets heated, or you need time to consider their response, arrange a time to call, email or message back. Explain you need to time out to digest the conversation.
Prepare to complain
2. Dispute resolution
If you can't agree on a solution, you can complain to one of two separate regulation bodies:
Lawyers complaints service(external link) — NZ Law Society
Complaints(external link) — NZ Society of Conveyancers
Grounds for complaint
If you are concerned about any of your rights (see Contact your lawyer or conveyancer above) you can contact NZ Law Society and NZ Society of Conveyancers for guidance.
They hear complaints on issues including:
- Lawyer/conveyancer behaviour, eg treating you unfairly, or conflict of interest.
- Bad service, eg delays, not doing what they said they would, not responding to calls or emails, giving you incomplete or wrong information.
- Fees, but only if your bill is for more than $2,000 (for lawyers) or $500 (for conveyancers) and under two years old.
- Failing to follow your orders, eg going against what you told them you wanted.
What you can expect
After you fill in a complaint form, a Standards Committee will look at your case.
The Committee will recommend a dispute resolution process after making sure your complaint has already been made to the lawyer/conveyancer. Dispute resolution options include:
- Mediation/negotiation — this avoids a hearing and can be a faster, simpler process. The NZ Law Society lets you choose to have mediation/negotiation by filling in one of their concerns forms.
Concerns form(external link) — NZ Law Society
- Formal inquiry — if the committee doesn't think mediation or negotiation is an option, your case might be settled by the Standards Committee after an inquiry.
Orders they can make
If the Standards Committee thinks the lawyer/conveyancer has done something wrong, it can:
- decide what the lawyer/conveyancer must do to put it right
- send the case to the NZ Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal if it is very serious.
If your complaint stays with the committee, they can order the lawyer/conveyancer to:
- apologise to you
- pay you compensation for losses (up to $25,000)
- reduce, cancel or refund your legal fees
- fix any mistakes at their own cost
- pay a fine up to $15,000
- pay your costs in making the complaint.
How your complaint is processed(external link) — NZ Law Society
Complaints brochure [PDF 250KB](external link) — NZ Society of Conveyancers
Get support at any point from:
- Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) — a free, independent service, run by volunteers. CAB can advise you on your consumer rights and obligations, in person, by phone, or online.
A CAB near you(external link) — Citizens Advice Bureau
- Community Law Centre: Free one-on-one legal advice to people with limited finances. The organisation has 24 community law centres throughout the country. You can find legal information and other resources on its website.
Our law centres(external link) — Community Law Centre