The Inquiry Panel consists of Singapore lawyers, foreign lawyers and lay persons from other professions whom are appointed by the Chief Justice for a term (renewable) of 2 years. The Chief Justice appoints, from among the members of the Inquiry Panel, a Chairman of the Inquiry Panel. The Chairman will constitute a Review Committee or an Inquiry Committee to review and inquire into complaints respectively.
Who Considers Your Complaint of Misconduct
The First Stage - The Review Process
Your complaint against a lawyer will be referred to the Council which will make the decision to refer the complaint to the Chairman of the Inquiry Panel ('IP'). The Chairman of the IP will then refer the matter to an independent panel of persons appointed by the Chief Justice to review a complaint. The first stage of the review process of a complaint is to refer the same to a 2-man Review Committee ('RC') consisting of a lawyer and a legal officer. The RC will decide if your complaint is of any substance that must be referred to an inquiry. If the RC requires any information or document it may call the lawyer or you to provide the information or document whilst carrying out its review process. If the RC finds your complaint has no substance or it is frivolous, the RC will report to the Council why your complaint should be dismissed.
The Council must accept the decision of the RC and will write to you to state the reasons why your complaint was dismissed. If your complaint is found to merit an inquiry, the Chairman of the IP will refer your complaint to the second stage where an Inquiry Committee would be appointed to conduct an inquiry into your complaint. You and the lawyer named in your complaint will be informed of the final decision of the RC in writing by the Society. Please read the information below on the powers of an Inquiry Committee.
The Second Stage - The Inquiry Process - Composition of the Inquiry CommitteeThe members of the Inquiry Committee ('IC') are also appointed from the independent panel of persons appointed by the Chief Justice to carry out the inquiry function. It will, however, consist of two lawyers, a judicial or government legal officer and a lay person (non-lawyer). You can be called upon by the IC to provide information to support your complaint.
When your complaint is referred to the IC, the Society will only correspond with you after receipt of the written IC report. An IC has the power to call for the production and inspection of documents connected with the inquiry or persons to give evidence.
Time limits for Inquiry into a complaint
An IC has a minimum period of 2 months and a maximum period of 6 months from their date of appointment to investigate a complaint if the lawyer is called to respond to the complaint. If the IC is of the view that the lawyer need not be called upon to answer the complaint, the IC will submit its report within 2 months of its appointment to the Law Society.
Powers of the Inquiry Committee to Order Costs against You
Kindly take note that if your complaint is referred for investigation by an IC, the IC may require you to deposit with The Law Society a reasonable sum not exceeding S$1,000 to cover costs and expenses. Further, if the IC finds the complaint to be frivolous or vexatious, the IC may order you to pay any person including the lawyer(s) you have complained against, all or any costs reasonably incurred by the lawyer(s) in the proceedings before the IC or direct that the amount be taxed by the Registrar. Such costs shall be a debt due from you to the lawyer(s) concerned.
Recommendations an Inquiry Committee can make after an inquiry
If an IC finds a case of misconduct has been made out against a lawyer, the IC may recommend that the Society prosecute the complaint before a higher tribunal called a Disciplinary Tribunal or recommend a financial penalty (up to a maximum of $10,000) be imposed on the lawyer that is paid to the Society. If the recommendation is to prosecute the complaint before a Disciplinary Tribunal, the Society will, without any costs to you, prosecute the complaint in the Society's name. You will be called as a witness for the Society's disciplinary proceedings. If an IC finds no misconduct by the lawyer, it will recommend to the Council that the complaint be dismissed. You will be informed of the Council's decision on the recommendation of the IC in writing.