Concerns about a Lawyer and the Complaint Process
Below are a list of our most frequently asked questions along with what the Nova Scotia Barristers Society’s answers and positions are.
What should I do if I have a concern about my lawyer?
Talk to your lawyer
- First, we recommend that you talk to your lawyer about your concern. Your lawyer may not be aware that they’re not meeting your expectations.
If your lawyer practices within a law firm:
- If you have spoken with your lawyer directly and your concern still isn’t resolved, we recommend you reach out to a managing partner. Sometimes issues can be resolved at that level too.
If you spoke to your lawyer about your concerns or if you have concerns about a lawyer that represented you in the past:
What do I do if I have a concern about opposing counsel or a lawyer who is not representing me?
Court is an adversarial process. Each side presents their evidence and it is up to the judge to determine the outcome. It is very common to disagree with the evidence the other side is presenting or submitting.
Disagreeing with the evidence submitted by a lawyer on behalf of their client is usually not a basis for the Society to become involved. We cannot interfere on your behalf in court.
Does the Society assist with disputes and concerns about a lawyer’s fees?
No. We cannot assist with disputes about your lawyer’s fees. If you feel that your lawyer’s fees are too high or incorrect request an itemized account from your lawyer. If you cannot resolve this with your lawyer, you can ask the Small Claims Court to review it. The Small Claims Court has the authority to reduce the account in appropriate circumstances.
Can the Society assist with my legal matter or recommend a lawyer to me?
No. The Society cannot assist with your legal matter or recommend a lawyer.
If you are looking for a lawyer:
If you are involved with a Civil Litigation Matter:
The free legal clinic at the Halifax Law Courts may be able to help with your matter.
You may be able to qualify for legal aid, which can get you representation from a legal aid lawyer. To do so you must contact your local legal aid office to see if you are eligible for representation by a legal aid lawyer. Please visit Nova Scotia Legal Aid’s site to find an office near you.
You also may contact the Dalhousie Legal Aid Office to see if the services they provide are able to meet your needs.
I have been denied representation by Legal Aid. Can the Society help?
No. We do not have the authority to interfere with Legal Aid’s processes. Legal Aid is entitled to determine who is eligible for their services and what matters they will take on. Legal Aid outlines the process for appealing the decision on their website.
Can the Society provide compensation to me?
The Society generally cannot provide compensation to complainants. However, if you gave the lawyer a retainer or they are holding money for you in trust and you believe that they have taken that money when they were not entitled to do so, please see the information regarding our Lawyers’ Fund for Client Compensation.
Does the Society assist with concerns related to lawyer negligence (e.g., errors and omissions)?
No. Professional negligence is generally not considered a complaint that the Society would investigate. If you believe that your lawyer was negligent in their representation of you and that you suffered a loss as a result, you may want to contact the Lawyers’ Insurance Association of Nova Scotia (LIANS).
Who can make a complaint to the Society?
Anyone who has concerns with the conduct of a Nova Scotia lawyer can file a complaint.
Can I file a complaint for someone else?
How do I file a complaint about a lawyer?
Before filing a formal complaint:
- Review our public resources page to ensure your concern is a matter we can address. Please note that the Society cannot provide legal advice, lawyer referrals, assist with disputes about your lawyer’s fees.
- Share your concerns with the Society through our intake process. Submit an online intake form, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call our intake line at 902-422-1491. Please include your name, the lawyer’s name and a brief description of your concern.
Through the intake process, we can help determine if your concern is a matter we can address.
If you wish to file a formal complaint, please complete the complaint form and return to the Society’s Director of Professional Responsibility at:
Director of Professional Responsibility
Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society
800–2000 Barrington Street
Halifax, NS B3J 3K1
What happens after I file a complaint?
The Society will review your complaint to determine how it should be handled. We may determine that the complaint is not appropriate for investigation. In that case, you will receive a letter explaining why.
A complaint may be resolved through dispute resolution. We will contact you if we wish to try to resolve your concerns with your lawyer. If the complaint is resolved, a letter will confirm the results. If it is not resolved, or if more serious problems are discovered, the complaint may be investigated further.
If a complaint is investigated, a copy will be sent to the lawyer, who must respond in writing. In most cases, you will receive a copy of the lawyer’s response, unless there is confidential and/or privileged information that you are not entitled to see.
How long does the complaints process take?
The complaints process may take a number of months to complete. When we process complaints, we engage in risk assessment, and as a result we may place higher priority on legal matters or relationships which are ongoing as compared with those which are closed or complete. There can also be numerous other factors which may cause our process to take more time, including a high volume of complaints, lawyer illness, or lack of access to a file.
Is there a time limit for me to file my complaint?
No, there is no time limit to file a complaint, however, a delayed complaint may affect our ability to help you, as well as the ability of the lawyer to respond to the complaint.
Are complaints confidential?
Yes. However, your complaint is shared with the lawyer you are complaining about and the designated lawyer of that firm, if applicable. Some law firms have a designated lawyer who is aware of any complaints against a lawyer within the firm.
Can I find out if a lawyer been disciplined?
Yes. You can use our member search tool on our website to see if a lawyer has been formally disciplined in the past: We post recent discipline decisions to our website.
Zero Tolerance Harassment Prevention Policy
Help us maintain a safe and respectful workplace
We listen to you and conduct ourselves in a respectful, professional manner. In return, we expect and depend on your cooperation.
In an effort to ensure a safe and respectful workplace, the Society will not accept abusive behaviour or communications towards our staff. This includes:
- demeaning or harassing comments;
- racist, discriminatory or obscene statements;
- sexual harassment; and
- intimidation, shouting and threats.
Our staff reserves the right to restrict communication with you if engage in any of these behaviours.
Thank you for helping us maintain a safe and respectful workplace.
Contact us at email@example.com.