What If I’m Not Happy with My Lawyer?

When people start their search for a lawyer, it’s often their very first - and sometimes only - experience with the legal system. Everyone wants to hire a great lawyer and feel confident that their lawyer will have their best interests at heart, but this is not always the case.

Before you engage the services of a lawyer, it’s important you understand what they’ll be doing for you. It’s also important that you gauge that they have the right skills, experience and personal qualities to suit your specific needs, and the ability to meet - and manage - your expectations, and those of the legal industry.

So, if you’re asking yourself the question, “am I happy with my lawyer?”, and not sure of the answer, we can help. Here are some of the most common queries and concerns, and how you can address them.

What Rules is My Lawyer Required to Follow?

All lawyers in Australia are required to meet strict ethical and legal standards.

Conduct of Queensland lawyers is supervised by the Queensland Law Society (QLS) and the Legal Services Commission (LSC), and governed by the Legal Profession Act 2007 (Qld) and the Australian Solicitors Conduct Rules 2012.

You can find out more about Queensland lawyers’ responsibilities via the Queensland Law Handbook.

What If My Lawyer Didn’t Tell Me About the Cost?

As set out in Part 3.4 Divisions 4 and 5 of the Legal Profession Act 2007 (Qld) (Legal Profession Act), your lawyer has a legal responsibility to ensure that you as a client are made fully aware of all expected legal costs.

A good lawyer will put together a comprehensive written costs agreement. For work exceeding $1500, lawyers are required by law to disclose in writing how you will be charged and their estimate of your total legal costs.

They must also put in writing how often you’ll be billed, interest rates applied to any outstanding bills (if any), and the point of contact at the law firm for any questions pertaining to costs.

If you wish to dispute a bill, there are a number of actions you can take. The first is to discuss with your lawyer to see if you can come to an agreement. The lawyer may clarify the bill further, or offer a reduction. If discussions are not successful, you may wish to try mediation.

If you wish to make a formal complaint, you can make an application for a costs assessment within 12 months that the bill was given.

When it comes to legal costs regarding Family law matters, these are governed by the Legal Profession Act. More information on costs can be found via the Family Court and the Federal Circuit Court.

What if My Lawyer Doesn’t Listen to Me?

A lawyer is required to act in a client’s best interests. In addition, your lawyer must act within the scope of the agreement they have with you as a client, and they are required to carry out your lawful instructions, even if they do not agree with those instructions.

However, it is important to understand that lawyers also owe a duty to the Court. On occasion, a client may attempt to direct the lawyer in a way that is a contravention of the law or breaches their ethical duties. In these instances, the lawyer’s duty to the Court will prevail

If your issue is with your lawyer ignoring you or not responding within a reasonable timeframe, try to correspond via an email or traditional letter first. If you get no response, see if you can organise an in-person meeting.

If this fails, or you believe the failure to follow instructions amounts to unsatisfactory conduct, you can make a formal complaint. We share how to do this below.

What if I feel My Lawyer is Giving Me Bad Advice?

Your lawyer is required to give you advice that is correct to the best of their knowledge.

On occasion, however, a lawyer may intentionally or unintentionally give incorrect, misleading or poor advice to their client, which negatively impacts the outcome of their case or causes them financial losses.

If you are questioning the advice your lawyer is giving you, it is best to first speak to them about it. If you are still unsure of the advice your lawyer is giving you, we suggest speaking to another legal professional who will be able to advise if the information is correct.

If legal proceedings have concluded, you might be able to submit a compensation claim for the loss you’ve suffered as a result of their negligence.

Can I Change My Lawyer?

If you have lost faith in your lawyer and have been unable to resolve your differences partway through the process, you can choose to replace them.

You will need to pay your lawyer for any work they have done that payment is outstanding for as per your agreement. Until such time as you’ve settled any outstanding bills, your previous lawyer may hold on to your file which could make it difficult for your new lawyer to understand the status of your case.

Once you have found a new lawyer, your previous lawyer will usually require that you sign a “transfer authority” so that they can obtain your file and commence working.

How Can I Make a Complaint About My Lawyer?

If you are unhappy with your lawyer in regards to many of the instances listed above, your first port of call should always be to raise your complaint directly with your lawyer.

If you wish to make a complaint about your lawyer, you will need to contact the Legal Services Commission and submit your complaint in writing. The Queensland Law Society details further information on how you can make a complaint

The Legal Services Commission will assess every complaint that is lodged, dismiss baseless complaints, and launch their own investigations where required.

There are some instances where the Legal Services Commission cannot help - such as disputes over legal fees (disputes over costs a legal practitioner has charged is dealt with by filing an application to the court for a costs assessment), allegations of negligence (this is a civil action decided by the courts), and requests for legal advice.

Not Happy with Your Lawyer? We Can Help.

At Pullos Lawyers, we are dedicated to offering only the highest level of services, guidance and legal representation. Our team of professional lawyers have experience and expertise across a range of family law areas, specialising in matters of LGBTIQ Law, De Facto Law & Same Sex Law, and International Family Law. We are also experts in Alternate Dispute Resolution such as Collaborative Law, Mediation and Arbitration. We offer a free initial consultation, so please feel free to get in touch with our team via email, or on (07) 5526 3646 (Gold Coast office) or (07) 3144 1641 (Brisbane Office).