What people complained about

Nature of complaint 2014–15 2013–14
Our services 125 119
Services provided by private practitioners 97 182
Services provided by our staff 131 111
Enquiries 388 269
Total 741 681

Complaints about our services

Complaints about our services covers complaints about all aspects of our services except complaints about individual staff members and services provided by private practitioners on behalf of Victoria Legal Aid.

We received 125 complaints about our services (up by 5%). The most common complaints were about:

  • failure to pay a barrister (19%)
  • funding eligibility  or service limitations (16%)
  • financial contributions from clients (8%).

These complaints were most commonly resolved by:

  • providing information or an explanation to the complainant (28%)
  • payment of an outstanding account (12%)
  • finding that the complaint was not substantiated (8%)

Complaints about services provided by private practitioners

We received 97 complaints about services provided by private practitioners (down by 46%), including services relating to a grant of legal assistance. The most common types of complaints were about:

  • improper requests for payment from a person in receipt of a grant of legal assistance (12%).
  • lack of communication with the client (12%)
  • failing to progress a case (8%)

These complaints were most commonly resolved by:

  • providing information or an explanation to the complainant (27%)
  • finding that the complaint was not substantiated (18%)
  • closing the complaint due to insufficient information being provided by the complainant(6%).

This decrease may reflect improvements in service delivery, resulting from the tightening of our private practitioner panel membership conditions and improvements to our framework for checking compliance with our guidelines.

We referred two complainants to the Legal Services Commissioner as the appropriate authority for investigating misconduct complaints about lawyers.

Complaints about services provided by our staff

We received 131 complaints about our legal and non-legal staff (up by 18%). 

The most common complaints were about:

  • the conduct of a staff member (19%)
  • dissatisfaction with advice or representation (15%)
  • lack of communication to a client (9%).

These complaints were most commonly resolved by:

  • providing information or an explanation to the complainant (22%)
  • finding that the complaint was not substantiated (12%)
  • passing on the complainant's feedback to the staff member (9%).

This increase is due largely to the improvements we made to our complaints process and record keeping. Under our updated process, our program managers and regional managers are recording more complaints in the first instance, and aiming to resolve client concerns without unnecessary delay.

Summary of complaints about private practitioners and our staff

The table shows the total number of complaints we received this year about private practitioners and our staff against our complaint categories. Most complaints against our staff related to service quality and professional conduct, while private practitioners received the most complaints about fee-related matters and professional conduct.

Complaint category* Our staff Private practitioners
Service quality 58 29
Professional conduct 50 32
Victoria Legal Aid requirements 6 14
Fee-related matters 2 5
Other 15 17
Total 131 97

* Complaint categories are defined as:

  • Service quality – includes complaints about the regularity of communications with a client, the accuracy of advice provided, the effectiveness of legal representation or how well a client’s case was prepared.
  • Professional conduct – includes complaints about a possible conflict of interest, a practitioner failing to appear in court, or a practitioner improperly ceasing to act for a client.
  • Victoria Legal Aid requirements – includes complaints about breaches of our panel membership obligations, failure to inform Victoria Legal Aid of relevant information for a grant of aid or providing false information.
  • Fee-related complaints – includes complaints about a request for payment from a client or from Victoria Legal Aid, or failure to pay a third-party service provider.
  • Other – includes where the complainant does not provide enough information to categorise the complaint and decides not to take the matter further upon request for further information.

Enquiries

We received 388 enquiries this year about a range of issues including queries about another person’s eligibility for assistance and complaints not related to our services.

These enquiries were mostly resolved by:

  • referral for investigation into third-party aid eligibility (33%)
  • information provided (25%)
  • referral to the Legal Help line (8%).