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Case Study Establishing Complaint Handling Systems

When establishing the Office of the Legal Services Commissioner in NSW, Steve had the challenge of setting up an office with no precedent anywhere in the world. A major aspect of the Office’s work was to be the handling of complaints made against lawyers. With the experience gained at the Anti-Discrimination Board which handled complaints of discrimination, and helped other institutions establish complaint handing systems, Steve designed a fresh approach.

Firstly, the system was designed to encourage all potential complainants to phone the office before lodging a complaint. An enquiry line was established, staffed mainly by law students with experienced staff oversight. Staff were trained to tease out the complainant’s problem, many of which would not be within our jurisdiction to handle. Staff would advise where best to take their concerns, or work to empower them to handle the problem themselves.

In many instances, staff could contact the lawyer complained about and work a resolution over the phone. As a last step. Staff would assist the complainant to lodge their complaint in a way most likely to achieve a resolution, or be elevated into an investigation into misconduct.

As a result, even though calls to the enquiry line increased, written complaints did not, costs were kept to a minimum and those contacting the office received a satisfactory result.