Complaints against lawyers fall yet again

by Sol Dolor09 Aug 2017
The number of complaints filed against lawyers at the Lawyers Complaints Service has dropped for three consecutive years.

Provisional data from the New Zealand Law Society show that in the year to 30 June, 1,331 complaints were filed against lawyers, a decrease from the 1,363 filings in the previous period. In 2015, the Law Society service received 1,528 complaints against lawyers.

Complaints against former lawyers increased to 28 from 25 in 2016. This is still less, however, than the 34 recorded in 2015. Complaints against non-lawyer employees decreased to 39 from 48 in 2016. In 2015, the Law Society recorded 29 complaints in the category.

Complaints lodged against incorporated law firms decreased to 18 from 23 in 2016 and 20 in 2015. Complaints against former incorporated law firms increased to two in the 12 months to 30 June, from none in the two preceding years.

Total complaints decreased to 1,419 from 1,459 in 2016 and 1,611 in 2015.

Of all complaints closed in the year to the end of June, 1,101 resulted in the decision to take no action, a drop from 1,253 in 2016 and 1,137 in 2015.

Complaints referred to and resolved by negotiation, conciliation, or mediation increased to 116 from 97 last year. In 2015, 143 cases were resolved through alternative means.

Only 15 cases were withdrawn, discontinued, or settled in 2017, down from 45 in 2016 and 64 in 2015. Meanwhile, 189 cases were resolved by orders made by the lawyers standards committee, up from 170 in 2016 and 186 in 2015.

Complaints outstanding at 30 June numbered 516, a decrease from 564 last year and 702 two years ago. This is despite the number of cases closed during the year decreasing to 1,467 from 1,595 in 2016 and 1,529 in 2015.

The Law Society said that the early resolution service’s process took an average of only 28 days to resolve a complaint. This is compared to the standard process, which took an average of 231 days to conclude a complaint.

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