- Anecdotally, some areas of law have recently seen a rise in disciplinary complaints brought by one practitioner against another.
- Perhaps unsurprisingly, this has been a particular issue in areas of practice where emotions can run high, such as family law.
- This article explores some of the less inflammatory ways in which we can consider dealing with difficult practitioners.
In recent times, society has been tested in unprecedented ways. Tempers are frayed and decision making is sometimes not all it could be. Lawyers are not immune from these stresses. Anecdotally, some areas of law have recently seen a rise in disciplinary complaints brought by one practitioner against another. It is perhaps unsurprising that this has been a particular issue in family law where heightened emotions are often involved.
The purpose of this article is not to discourage complaints being brought to the attention of disciplinary bodies in appropriate circumstances, for instance when a solicitor has engaged in a serious breach of their ethical obligations, or where there is a risk to the public. The aim here is simply to encourage practitioners to act with a cool head; to pause and consider whether a complaint is appropriate, and whether another solution may be more productive in the circumstances.
Complaints are not to be made lightly. Whether they are upheld or not, they have serious effects on wellbeing, reputation and finances. When a colleague has behaved in a manner we know, or suspect, is a breach of the Legal Profession Uniform Law Australian Solicitors’ Conduct Rules (‘Conduct Rules’), such as in regard to trust accounts, court obligations or the reporting of a crime, we are obliged to address the matter. However, in other situations a formal complaint is not necessarily the answer. Before taking a matter further, ask yourself: