How We Handle Complaints

We receive and investigate complaints against legal practitioners in relation to inadequate services, excessive costs, and misconduct. Where appropriate, we will try to resolve complaints informally with practitioners and clients.

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Complaints Information for Legal Practitioners

On this page you will find out what to expect if a complaint is made to the Legal Services Regulatory Authority about a legal practitioner. You can also download this information as a booklet:

Download the Complaints Information for Practitioners booklet (PDF)

For information about how to make a complaint against a solicitor or barrister, please see the Making a Complaint section.

For further queries you can contact our Complaints and Complaints and Resolution Unit:

Our Telephone
01-8592911.
From Monday to Friday (except Bank Holidays)
From 10:00-12:30 and from 14:00-16:00

Our Email
Send your completed Complaint Form or correspondence to the Complaints and Resolution Unit at [email protected]

Our Postal Address
Complaints and Resolutions Unit
Legal Services Regulatory Authority
P.O. Box 12906
Dublin 7

What kinds of complaints can be made against legal practitioners

  • A client of a legal practitioner or someone acting on their behalf can make a complaint
  • Any person may make a complaint about alleged misconduct on the part of a legal practitioner
  • Inadequate service
  • Excessive costs
  • Misconduct

This can be a range of behaviours from allegations of fraud or dishonesty to criminal activity to a breach of the Solicitors Acts 1954 to 2015.

Misconduct is defined in section 50(1) of the Legal Services Regulation Act, 2015.

Complaints which relate to alleged inadequate service or excessive costs (or both) generally have a time limit of three years.

There is no time limit for making a complaint of alleged misconduct.

Yes, the LSRA can accept and investigate a complaint relating to activity which constitutes a crime or offence outside the State which, if it occurred within the State, would be an arrestable offence.

Yes, if the complaint relates to behaviour of a solicitor or barrister which is likely to bring his/her profession into disrepute or to justify a finding that a legal practitioner is not a fit and proper person to engage in the provision of legal services.

You have the right to be represented at any stage during the complaint proceedings. It is a matter for you to decide if, or when you engage representation. You are responsible for any cost associated with the representation.

Once a complaint is received relating to inadequate service, excessive costs or misconduct, and if the complaint relates to a solicitor, we will notify the Law Society of Ireland.

If a complaint relates to a barrister, the Bar Council will be notified of the complaint at the conclusion of any disciplinary process if the outcome is likely to impact on the ability of the barrister to provide a legal service.

On receipt of a complaint of inadequate service, excessive costs or misconduct, we will notify you (and the Law Society of Ireland if appropriate).

You will be provided with a copy of all documents submitted to the LSRA by the complainant and asked to respond to the complaint setting out your response to the complaint.

We may also write to you again if there is a need to ask you for additional information.

Once we receive a response from you we will assess all the information available to us by conducting a preliminary review and decide whether or not the complaint is admissible.

As no two complaints are the same, it is very difficult to estimate how long each complaint may take.  However, we are committed to providing an efficient and effective service and will be working hard to have the matter dealt with as quickly as possible.  While some complaints may be quite straightforward, others may not be, and our intention is to process complaints in the order in which we receive them.

Admissible and Inadmissible complaints

Admissible means that the complaint meets the criteria set out in Legal Services Regulation Act, 2015. In other words, it is:

  • one of inadequate service/excessive costs or misconduct,
  • it is not frivolous or vexatious or without substance or foundation and
  • it has been made within the required time limits.

It is important that you know that the complaint will not be admissible if it was previously made to the Law Society of Ireland, the Bar Council or King’s Inns and it was determined by one of those bodies, even if the complainant was unhappy with the outcome of that complaint. A complaint is also inadmissible if it is the same or substantially the same as a complaint that has previously been the subject of criminal or civil proceedings which were determined in favour of the legal practitioner.

As a practitioner, if you believe you have been notified of a complaint which was previously determined, please advise the LSRA of this fact and the details of the original complaint. This will enable the LSRA to correctly determine the admissibility of the complaint.

We will notify you and the complainant (and the Law Society of Ireland if applicable) that the complaint has been determined to be inadmissible and the reasons for this determination.

We will notify you and the complainant that the complaint has been determined to be admissible and the reasons why.

Depending on the type of complaint made, there are a couple of avenues the complaint may take.

We are required under the legislation to offer you the option to resolve a complaint of inadequate service (including of a substantial nature) or excessive costs (or both) informally through a process of Informal Resolution.

The Informal Resolution process is provided by trained mediators and aims to facilitate both parties arriving at an agreed solution rather than having a solution imposed on them.

Complaints which are considered by the LSRA to fit the criteria for misconduct are investigated by a Complaints Committee.

How Informal Resolution works

This is a mechanism used by people to resolve complaints on a less formal basis than a full investigation.

If the complaint reaches the admissibility point in the complaints process, the LSRA will ask you and the complainant to engage in Informal Resolution to try to resolve two specific types of complaint (1) inadequate service or (2) excessive costs.
Some complaints which fall into the category of misconduct and relate to alleged inadequate service of a more significant level can also be channelled into Informal Resolution.

Please be aware that agreement by you to enter into Informal Resolution in an attempt to resolve the complaint, does not mean that you are making an admission of liability with respect to a complaint.

It is not permissible under the legislation for complaints of misconduct, with the exception of inadequate service to a substantial degree, to be referred for Informal Resolution.

Misconduct allegations are formally investigated by a Complaints Committee.

Sometimes, a legal practitioner will try to resolve a complaint as soon as he/she receives a copy of the complaint and before the LSRA have determined the complaint to be admissible. This is acceptable to the LSRA, and where this occurs, the LSRA will consider the complaint and determine if any further investigation is required.

Informal Resolution is a form of mediation conducted by staff of the LSRA, usually by telephone.  There is no charge for the mediation conducted by LSRA staff.

It is a voluntary process.  The LSRA will offer it to you and the complainant and we hope that you will take the opportunity to resolve the complaint at an early stage.

You can also choose to enter mediation conducted by a third party. However, charges will apply and they must be borne equally by the parties unless an agreement is reached between the parties regarding costs.

Informal Resolution is a confidential process and if you engage in it, but cannot resolve the complaint, any information you obtain through the process must remain confidential to the parties involved in the resolution process.

This means that if the complaint goes on to a full investigation, the Complaints Committee tasked with the investigation will not know or be given any answers or statements made in the Informal Resolution process.

The LSRA’s Guidelines set out in detail the process which will be implemented once a complaint has been determined to be admissible and considered suitable for informal resolution through mediation. You can download the guidelines here: LSRA guidelines for the resolution of complaints by mediation or informal means.

No you don’t. You and the complainant will be invited to resolve the matter by informal means. It is open to you and the complainant whether or not to accept the LSRA’s offer of Informal Resolution. We would encourage you however to take the opportunity to try to resolve it at an early stage as informal Resolution is considered to be an appropriate way of dealing with complaints of this nature,  the investigation process can sometimes be lengthy and there are no guarantees that the outcome of the investigation will be to your satisfaction.

If you choose to reject the LSRA’s invitation, the LSRA will write to you and the complainant asking for a statement setting out your response in relation to the complaint to be submitted within 21 days.  The LSRA will then make a determination regarding the complaint.

The LSRA will conduct mediation between you and the complainant.  We will help you to try and find a solution which is acceptable to both of you.

Yes you can. This is a voluntary process and if you or the complainant wish to withdraw your consent to the informal resolution process, you may do so by writing to the LSRA advising us of this.  Likewise, the mediator may decide that progress is not being made and bring the mediation to an end.

The LSRA will then write to you and the complainant and ask you for a statement setting out your position in relation to the complaint. The LSRA will then make a determination in the matter deciding whether or not a direction to the legal practitioner is appropriate.

Our complaints determinations

It means that the LSRA will decide whether or not costs were excessive, services inadequate or that the act or omission to which the complaint relates, if the complaint was substantiated, would constitute misconduct within the meaning of section 50(1)(b) of the 2015 Act.

If the complaint is founded, the LSRA will decide what direction it may make to the legal practitioner. Both you and the complainant will be notified of the determination made and given an opportunity to appeal that decision to a Review Committee.

If the complaint related to misconduct it will be referred to the Complaints Committee for investigation.

There are a range of directions open to the LSRA.

Where the LSRA considers that the legal services provided were of an inadequate standard, and that it is, having regard to all the circumstances concerned, appropriate to do so, the Authority may direct the legal practitioner to do one or more of the following:

  1. secure the rectification, at his or her own expense or at the expense of his or her firm, of any   error, omission or other deficiency arising in connection with the legal services concerned;
  2. take, at his or her own expense or at the expense of his or her firm (which shall not exceed €3,000), such other action as the Authority may specify;
  3. transfer any documents relating to the subject matter of the complaint to another legal practitioner nominated by the client, subject to such terms and conditions as the Authority may consider appropriate having regard to the existence of any right to possession or retention of any of the documents concerned vested in the legal practitioner to whom the direction is issued;
  4. pay to the client a sum not exceeding €3,000 as compensation for any financial or other loss suffered by the client in consequence of the legal services provided by the legal practitioner to the client being of an inadequate standard.

Where the LSRA considers that the amount of costs sought in respect of legal services provided to the client by the legal practitioner was or is excessive, and that it is, having regard to all the circumstances concerned, appropriate to do so, may direct the legal practitioner to do one or more of the following:

  1. refund without delay, either wholly or in part as directed, any amount already paid by or on behalf of the client in respect of the practitioner’s costs in connection with the bill of costs;
  2. waive, whether wholly or in part as directed, the right to recover those costs.

You will be provided with a copy of the direction made and given an opportunity to consider it and decide whether or not to appeal the decision.

Both you and the complainant are entitled to seek a review of the determination made by the LSRA.  You can do this by writing to the Authority within 30 days of the date of notification of the determination requesting a review by of the direction made, or, a failure to make a direction.

If the complaint relates to inadequate services and/or excessive costs and a review is sought by either party on the direction made by the LSRA, the direction will cease to have effect.

With respect to a complaint relating to an inadequate standard of service or excessive costs, any decision(s) made by the LSRA will not interfere with, or prohibit a complainant exercising their legal rights.

Review of complaints about services and costs

The Review Committee is made up of three people:

  • 2 lay people, and
  • 1 solicitor or barrister

If the complaint relates to a barrister, then a barrister will sit on the Review Committee. Similarly, if the complaint relates to a solicitor, then a solicitor will sit on the Review Committee.

If you (or the complainant) request a review, the secretary to the Review Committee will write to both parties asking each to provide a statement in writing to it, setting out why they feel that the determination reached by the LSRA relating to inadequate standard of services or excessive costs (or both) was incorrect or unjust.

Both you and the complainant are entitled to seek a review of the determination made by the LSRA.  You can do this by writing to the Authority within 30 days of the date of notification of the determination requesting a review by of the direction made, or, a failure to make a direction.

If the complaint relates to inadequate services and/or excessive costs and a review is sought by either party on the direction made by the LSRA, the direction will cease to have effect.

The Review Committee will review all the documentation available to it and make one of the following decisions:

  • Confirm the determination of the LSRA
  • Send the complaint back to the LSRA to be dealt with again
  • Issue one or more direction to the legal practitioner which the LSRA is authorised to issue

If you (and/or the complainant) accept the determination of the Review Committee, it shall become absolutely binding on you (and the complainant) 21 days after the decision has been notified to the parties.

If you (or the complainant) remain dissatisfied with a decision of a Review Committee, you (or the complainant) may apply to the High Court for an Order directing the Review Committee to rescind or vary the determination as the Court considers appropriate.

You must apply to the High Court within 21 days of being notified of the Review Committee decision.

The determination of the Review Committee shall become absolutely binding on you (and the complainant) 21 days after the decision was reached.

If you without good reason refuse, neglect or otherwise fail to comply with the determination, you may be guilty of an offence and could be prosecuted in the District Court. The LSRA may also consider this is a professional conduct matter.

How complaints of misconduct are handled

The same initial LSRA process will apply regarding admissibility of the complaint.

Admissible complaints of misconduct are then referred to a Complaints Committee for investigation.

The Complaints Committee is made up of a total of 27 members who will be appointed in groups of three or five to investigate each individual complaint.  These smaller Committees are called Divisional Committees.  Solicitors or Barristers are appointed as members of each individual Divisional Committee as appropriate.

A Divisional Committee will consider and investigate complaints relating to misconduct. The Divisional Committee will receive a copy of the complaint and any documents relating to it which have been submitted by both you and the complainant, together with a summary of the complaint.

The Divisional Committee will then write to you, provide you with a copy of the complaint together with a copy of any documents relating to it, and request a response.  If you agree the complaint against you is warranted you will have the opportunity to accept a sanction rather than have the complaint undergo a full investigation.

If you respond indicating that you are not in agreement to accepting a sanction the Divisional Committee will provide the complainant with a copy of your response and invite the complainant to provide views on it.

If the Divisional Committee is not satisfied with your response, or if you do not respond, the Divisional Committee will proceed to investigate the complaint as it considers appropriate.

If you are willing to accept wrong doing and any sanction which may be imposed, the Divisional Committee will make a determination and direction regarding the complaint.  The parties will be notified of the decision of the Committee.

Where the Divisional Committee, determines that it warrants the imposition of a sanction it may specify one or more of the following:

  1. a direction to the legal practitioner to perform or complete the legal service the subject of the complaint or a direction to the legal practitioner to arrange for the performance or completion of the legal service the subject of the complaint by a legal practitioner nominated by the complainant at the expense of the legal practitioner the subject of the complaint
  2. a direction to the legal practitioner that he or she participate in one or more modules of a professional competence scheme and that he or she furnish evidence to the Authority of such participation within a specified period;
  3. a direction to the legal practitioner—
    1. that he or she waive all or a part of any fees otherwise payable by the complainant to the legal practitioner concerned, or
    2. that he or she refund to the client some or all of any fees paid to the legal practitioner concerned in respect of the legal services the subject of the complaint;
  4. a direction that the legal practitioner take such other action in the interest of the client as the Committee may specify;
  5. a direction to the legal practitioner to comply with (in whole or in part) an undertaking given by the legal practitioner to another legal practitioner or to another person or body;
  6. a direction to the legal practitioner to withdraw or amend an advertisement;
  7. a direction to the legal practitioner to pay a sum not exceeding €5,000 as compensation for any financial or other loss suffered by the client in consequence of any inadequacy in the legal services provided or purported to have been provided by the legal practitioner, provided that any such payment made in compliance with the direction shall be without prejudice to any legal right of the client;
  8. a direction to the legal practitioner to pay to the Authority a sum not exceeding €5,000 by way of contribution towards the costs incurred by the Authority in investigating the complaint;
    1. where the Divisional Committee has determined that the legal practitioner has in the course of the investigation refused, neglected or otherwise failed, without reasonable cause, to respond appropriately in a timely manner, or at all, to a written request from the Divisional Committee and that the Authority has incurred additional costs in relation to the investigation of the complaint in consequence of that refusal, neglect or failure, a direction to the legal practitioner to pay to the Authority a sum not exceeding €2,500 by way of contribution towards those additional costs incurred by the Authority in investigating the complaint.

Or where the legal practitioner consents in writing it may take one of the following measures:

the issue of a notice—

  • in the case of a legal practitioner who is a solicitor, to the Law Society informing the Law Society of the decision of the Divisional Committee to impose a sanction under subsection (1)(b) and directing the Law Society to impose a specified restriction or condition on the practising certificate of the legal practitioner concerned,

or

  • in the case of a legal practitioner who is a barrister, to the chief executive of the Authority of the decision of the Divisional Committee to impose a sanction under subsection (1)(b) and directing the chief executive to impose, in accordance with Part 9 a specified restriction or condition on the legal practitioner concerned in respect of his or her practice as a barrister

Also where the Divisional Committee considers that the act or omission the subject of the complaint is of a kind that is more appropriate for consideration by the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal, it may make an application in respect of the matter to it for the holding of an inquiry under section 81.

Yes. The Divisional Committee may send you a notice in writing and may request:

  • That you verify anything contained in your response to the complaint;
  • That you provide information or documents relating to the complaint;
  • That you verify information by way of an affidavit.

The legal practitioner is required to comply with any notice issued to them.

You may represent yourself or you may be represented by a person of your choice for the purpose of appearing before the Committee.

Please be aware however that the costs of such representation, if any, shall be borne by the practitioner.

The Committee may decide to accept the withdrawal however, if the Committee is of the opinion that an investigation should proceed despite the complainant’s decision to withdraw the complaint, it will notify you and the complainant of its decision.

Yes it can. If the Committee determines that the matter complained of is not one which warrants a sanction or direction, the Committee will advise you and the complainant in writing, and give reasons for its decision.

There are a range of penalties available to the Committee if it decides that it is not appropriate to refer the matter to the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal (“the LPDT).  You will be notified of the decision of the Committee and the sanctions which have been imposed.

Yes, a determination of the Committee can be appealed to the High Court.  Only the practitioner or the LSRA can appeal the determination of the Complaints Committee.  There is no appeal mechanism available for complainants.

Serious complaints and the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal

Yes. This is usually reserved for very serious types of misconduct complaints.

Allegations of a criminal nature made against a legal practitioner may be referred to the Garda Síochána for investigation.

Other serious allegations, which do not involve criminality, can be referred to the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal (LPDT) if the Divisional Committee considers that it is more appropriate.

The Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal (LPDT) is completely independent of the LSRA.  It is made up of 33 members appointed by the President of the High Court, on the nomination of the Minister for Justice and Equality.

The Tribunal has a majority of lay persons appointed to it.

Its role is to conduct tribunals of inquiries into allegations of misconduct made against legal practitioners.

The Complaints Committee and the Law Society of Ireland may refer a matter to the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal for investigation.

  • A person appointed by the LSRA will present the evidence to the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal, relating to solicitors or barristers, or
  • A person appointed by the Law Society will present the evidence to the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal relating to a breach of the Solicitors Accounts Regulations.
  • You may be required to submit in writing an outline of the evidence you expect to give if summoned to attend the hearing.

The Tribunal has the power to require witnesses to attend before it, and can compel documents be produced to it.

The inquiry is conducted by way of an oral hearing which is normally held in public, unless the Tribunal is satisfied that it should be held in private.

Both you and the Legal Services Regulatory Authority may be represented by a legal practitioner.

Any witnesses called before the Tribunal are required to give their evidence on oath or on affirmation.

All parties to the complaint will have an opportunity to examine every witness giving evidence to the Tribunal.

The legislation allows the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal to call witnesses, hear evidence and make a determination in a case.  It can also prosecute someone in Court for failing to appear before it, refusing to produce documents or giving false information which hinders or obstructs the Tribunal.

The Tribunal has a wide range of sanctions available to it under the legislation – from impacting on a practitioners practising certificate to imposing substantial financial fines.

The Disciplinary Tribunal may, subject to subsections (3) and (4), make an order imposing one or more of the following sanctions on the legal practitioner:

  1. an advice;
  2. an admonishment;
  3. a censure;
  4. a direction that the legal practitioner participate in one or more modules of a professional competence scheme and furnish, within a specified period, evidence to the Disciplinary Tribunal of such participation;
  5. a direction that the legal practitioner concerned—
    1. waive all or a part of any costs otherwise payable by the complainant to the legal practitioner concerned in respect of the matter the subject of the complaint,
    2. refund all or any part of any costs paid to the legal practitioner concerned in respect of the matter the subject of the complaint;
  6. a direction that the legal practitioner arrange for the completion of the legal service to which the inquiry relates or the rectification, at his or her own expense, of any error, omission or other deficiency arising in connection with the provision of the legal services the subject of the inquiry, as the Disciplinary Tribunal may specify;
  7. a direction that the legal practitioner take, at his or her own expense, such other action in the interests of the complainant as the Disciplinary Tribunal may specify;
  8. a direction that the legal practitioner transfer any documents relating to the subject matter of the complaint (but not otherwise) to another legal practitioner nominated by the client or by the Authority with the consent of the client, subject to such terms and conditions as the Authority may deem appropriate having regard to the circumstances, including the existence of any right to possession or retention of such documents or any of them vested in the legal practitioner or in any other person;
  9. a direction that the legal practitioner pay a sum, not exceeding €15,000, as restitution or part restitution to any aggrieved party, without prejudice to any legal right of such party;
  10. a direction that the whole or a part of the costs of the Disciplinary Tribunal or of any person making submissions to it or appearing before it, in respect of the inquiry be paid by the legal practitioner concerned (which costs shall be assessed by a Legal Costs Adjudicator in default of agreement);
  11. where the legal practitioner is a practising solicitor, a direction that a specified condition be imposed on his or her practising certificate;
  12. where the legal practitioner is a practising solicitor, and the misconduct concerned consists of a breach of the Solicitors Accounts Regulations, a direction that he or she pay a sum not exceeding €15,000 to the Compensation Fund;
  13. where the legal practitioner is a practising barrister, a direction to the chief executive of the Authority directing him or her to impose a specified restriction or condition on the legal practitioner in respect of his or her practice as a barrister.

The Tribunal may make a recommendation to the High Court that it make one or more of the order specified under Section 85(7) of the Legal Services Regulation Act, 2015.

  • The LSRA can appeal a decision of the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal.
  • The legal practitioner can appeal a decision of the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal.

Welfare Services for legal practitioners

The Law Society of Ireland offers the following supports:

Panel to Assist Solicitors
A panel of solicitors who provide assistance to solicitors in regulatory matters which can be found on the Law Society website.

Wellbeing Hub
A part of the Law Society website that provides online information relating to wellbeing.

Consult a Colleague
This Law Society funded confidential helpline offers free personal and professional support. It is operated by the Dublin Solicitors’ Bar Association
Tel: 01 284 8484

Guidance and Ethics Helpline
Law Society Assistance is offered to solicitors concerned about their own position in relation to matters of conduct.
Contact: Linda Kirwan
Tel: 01 672 4800
Email: [email protected]

Law Care Ireland
Law Care is a charity that supports and promotes mental health and wellbeing in the legal community throughout Ireland and the UK. It offers a free confidential service which is delivered independently by staff and volunteers with experience of practising law. This service is available to all legal practitioners.

For more information, including a range of useful factsheets, visit the Law Care Ireland Website (www.lawcare.ie).