Complaints Against Lawyers
The Law Society of Singapore (”LSS”) regulates Singapore lawyers and foreign lawyers and they need to comply with the Legal Profession (“Professional Conduct”) Rules (“the Rules”). A person who is aggrieved by the conduct of a lawyer or is aware of a breach of the Rules, can lodge a complaint with LSS and it will investigate the matter under the Legal Profession Act (“LPA”)
Two Types of Complaints
The LPA provides for 2 types of complaints against a lawyer:
- Inadequate Professional Service under Section 75B
- Professional Misconduct under Section 85(1)
You can make a complaint under A or B or both A and B. In your complaint letter please indicate which type of complaint you are making.
LSS takes a serious view of its role as a regulator of the profession and if misconduct or a breach of the Rules is established action can be taken against the lawyer.
LSS can only act on a complaint against a lawyer as set out in the LPA and it is not empowered to provide any legal advice to the public.
When investigating a complaint of misconduct, LSS is not empowered to recover on your behalf any financial loss or damages suffered by you because of the conduct of a lawyer.
A. Inadequate Professional Service
The Rules prescribe the following standards of professional service:
- The lawyer must provide diligent legal service to client;
- The lawyer should ensure that he is competent to represent his client;
- The lawyer must complete the work within the time prescribed or agreed or otherwise within a reasonable time;
- The lawyer must keep the client informed on the progress of the case;
- The lawyer should acknowledge receipt of client's money or securities;
- The lawyer should periodically provide statement of accounts to the client;
- The lawyer should within reasonable time respond to client's calls or endeavour to keep appointments made with the client;
- The lawyer should explain to the client important developments in his case e.g. offers of settlements;
- The lawyer should explain the manner in which the lawyer would charge for services, the payments required to be made by the client, provide an estimate of fees and deliver bills of costs to the client at regular intervals; and
- Discuss with the client the possible risks or expenses of proceedings arising from the case.
Who can make the complaint?
Only a client can file a complaint against his own lawyer from a Singapore law practice.
Nature of complaint
The complaint must relate to the lawyer’s failure to provide adequate professional service to his client by not meeting one or more of the standards prescribed.
How to make the complaint?
The complaint should be in writing (in English) preferably in the format set out in the Guide and addressed to the Head, Conduct Department, Law Society of Singapore as the format will help to ensure that you have provided all the necessary details and particulars required. The Law Society’s Council (“the Council”) may require a complainant to support the complaint with a Statutory Declaration where the Council decides to refer the complaint for investigation. The format of the Statutory Declaration is set out in the Guide.
Time limit for making complaint
A complaint cannot be made after 3 years from the date of the conduct complained of.
Steps to resolve the matter
The Council will take into consideration attempts made by the complainant to resolve the matter.
B. Professional Misconduct
Who can make the complaint?
Any person can make a complaint against any lawyer.
Nature of complaint
The lawyer's conduct is not of a standard expected of a member of an honourable profession or as an officer of the Supreme Court.
Examples of professional misconduct include alleged dishonesty, fraud, gross overcharging for work done, making misleading statements, divulging confidential information given by the client to his lawyer, acting in conflict of interest or acting in breach of the Rules.
How to make the complaint
Complaints must be supported by a Statutory Declaration. A Statutory Declaration is a sworn or affirmed document made under the Oaths and Declaration Act confirming that statements made in the declaration are true. Making a false declaration may give rise to penalties under the law.
All complaints must be in writing (in English) by a letter with a Statutory Declaration and addressed to the Head, Conduct Department, Law Society of Singapore. Complaints made via email are not acceptable. The complaint letter should follow the format provided in the respective guides as the format will assist you to prepare a proper complaint with the necessary particulars and details required
How the Law Society can help
If you have suffered a financial loss because of the dishonesty of a lawyer or his staff, you may apply for a grant for compensation from the Compensation Fund administered by LSS.
To apply for a grant, please complete and submit this form.
When considering an application for compensation from the Compensation Fund, the Council must satisfy itself that you have exhausted all your civil remedies against the lawyer or his staff for the loss. In appropriate cases, the Council will require that you lay a police report against the lawyer or his staff for the alleged act of dishonesty.