Making a Complaint

Complaints of misconduct from the public, solicitors and other clients are considered by the Barristers' Professional Conduct Tribunal. Practising barristers in Ireland must follow The Bar of Ireland's Code of Conduct. This ensures that barristers uphold the highest professional and ethical standards when working with clients, the court and the public.

The Tribunal can impose penalties if it finds that a barrister has been guilty of breaching the Code of Conduct or of breaching proper professional standards. It should be noted that the Tribunal does not deal with professional negligence claims. Such claims are a matter for the courts.

The Tribunal is composed of nine members, five of whom are non-lawyers and four of whom are practising barristers. Of the five non-lawyer members, one is nominated by the Irish Business and Employers’ Confederation (IBEC); another by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU); and the three remaining members are nominated by The Bar of Ireland. The Tribunal sits with a majority of non-lawyers and at least one member who is a barrister. 

The members of the Tribunal are: 

Barristers
  • Patrick McCann SC
  • Denis McCullough SC
  • Alan Dodd BL
  • Anne-Marie Lawlor BL


Secretary:  Donal O'Kelly, tel: 01-817 5011

Non-lawyers
  • Dr Aine Hyland (former Professor of Education at UCC)
  • Mr Maurice O’Connell (former Governor of the Central Bank)
  • Dr Pat O’Neill (Consultant in Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine)
  • Ms Noirin Greene (Irish Congress of Trade Unions)
  • Ms Maire Sweeney (IBEC – Human Resources)

How to make a complaint about a barrister

When a barrister is working for you, you (the client) have a right to very high standards of independence, integrity, representation, courtesy and advice. Your barrister should also have a high level of knowledge about the area of the law on which you need advice or representation. 

If your barrister does not provide the high standard required, you may complain to the Barristers’ Professional Conduct Tribunal.

The Bar of Ireland publishes a Code of Conduct and a Disciplinary Code that all barristers must obey. If a barrister does not follow the Code of Conduct or the Disciplinary Code, a client may complain about them to the Tribunal. Sometimes, The Bar of Ireland may make the complaint. 

Five non-lawyers and four barristers are members of the Tribunal. Usually, when a complaint is made about a barrister, two of the non-lawyers and one barrister from the Tribunal form a panel to deal with it. 

The non-lawyers come from diverse backgrounds such as trade unions, businesses or voluntary organisations. 

The members of the Tribunal are listed above.

The Bar of Ireland pays the Tribunal expenses, but the Tribunal is completely independent of The Bar of Ireland.

If you want to complain about a barrister, you should first discuss it with your solicitor. Your solicitor may be able to take up your complaint directly with the barrister and resolve the matter to your satisfaction. 

If they cannot resolve the complaint, you should contact: 
Donal O’Kelly 
Secretary
Barristers’ Professional Conduct Tribunal
145/146 Church Street
Dublin 7.
Tel.: 01-817 5011

Donal will send you a form, which you should fill in and return as soon as possible. You can also download a complaint form.

If you would like to complain about a barrister, you should do so as soon as possible. A long delay between the cause of the complaint and when you complain can make it very difficult for us to handle the matter.

You can complain about a barrister if:

  • they have failed in any way to give you proper professional standards;
  • they have committed any professional misconduct; or
  • they have brought the profession into disrepute.

For example, you could complain about a barrister if they:

  • mislead the court;
  • fail to keep your affairs confidential;
  • act against your instructions;
  • act against your best interests;
  • cause serious delay in proceedings or dealing with papers;
  • act dishonestly or discreditably;
  • bully you; or
  • are seriously rude to you.

We can uphold or reject a complaint. Upholding it means that we find it is valid. 
If we find that your complaint is valid, we may do any of the following and publish the barrister’s name:

  • recommend that the barrister be disbarred;
  • suspend the barrister from practice for a specified period;
  • require the barrister to return the fee (or part of it) to the client; or
  • impose a fine.

Sometimes we will recognise that your complaint is valid but deal with it without publishing your barrister’s name by:

  • admonishing (cautioning) the barrister; or
  • taking no further action.

The Tribunal cannot award compensation to the client.

Yes, we cannot handle complaints about:

  • judges;
  • solicitors;
  • barristers outside their professional role;
  • debts due by the barrister to members of the public; or
  • claims that a barrister was negligent.

In addition, we do not normally deal with complaints arising from current court cases or those under appeal until the proceedings have finished.

There are always two sides to any dispute. In fairness to all the parties, each side must be given a chance to make representations.

When we receive your complaint, we will ask your barrister to respond and we will send their response to you. 

We will copy any documents we receive from the person making the complaint and send them to the barrister. We will also copy any documents we receive from the barrister and send them to the person making the complaint.

We will then decide if there is enough information to make a decision, or if we need to hear evidence about all or part of the complaint. If a hearing is necessary, we will arrange a time and date. We make great efforts to suit both sides.

Hearings are reasonably informal. Evidence is not on oath, and hearings usually take place in the late afternoon at a venue in central Dublin. The person who makes the complaint (the complainant) may be represented by a lawyer, but we cannot award costs.

Our investigations normally take between six and 20 weeks.

We deal with complaints as quickly as possible, but some complaints are complex and it may take us a lot of time to get all the information we need to reach a fair decision.

We will keep the complainant and the barrister informed about the progress of our investigation.

The complaints procedure will work best if you:

  • keep the complaint brief, clear and to the point;
  • give us clear copies of any relevant documents;
  • tell us clearly what the barrister did or did not do and why you believe this was unprofessional;
  • are open and honest and give us full details of your complaint with any changes of circumstances that may affect the investigation;
  • give accurate contact details including your phone number, address and email; and
  • as quickly as possible, give us any other information that we request.

Yes, either the complainant or the barrister may appeal any decision. An appeal must be brought to us within 21 days of the Tribunal decision.

Your appeal must be in writing and addressed to the Barristers' Professional Conduct Appeals Board. 

We will send you an appeal form if you need one or you can download the appeal form here.

An appeals board usually considers papers only; it is unusual to hold hearings. An appeal can be allowed or dismissed or be sent back to the Tribunal for rehearing.

The members of the Appeal Board are: 

Appeal Board Members

  • Judge Geoghegan
  • Grainne Clohessy SC
  • Daithi O’Ceallaigh
  • Niall Greene
  • Eunan O’Halpin

Secretary:  Donal O'Kelly, tel: 01-817 5011

 

Barristers’ Professional Conduct Tribunal
145/146 Church Street
Dublin 7
Tel.: 01-817 5011
Email: donal.tribunal@gmail.com