Filing A Complaint With The Bar

When we hire an attorney, we trust that they will represent us ethically, competently and fairly. We trust that they will protect our interests and do the right thing. Sometimes, things go wrong and you have an attorney who is working against you, instead of for you. Assuming that you want to terminate your business relationship with the lawyer, you should also file a complaint with the local state bar so that the attorney can be disciplined if necessary, and so the complaint is put on record, should it be needed in the future. This article explains how to file a complaint against an attorney with the state bar.

The first thing you need to do in order to file a bar complaint is to contact your attorney in writing, and request that they provide you with a full copy of your file and your billing statements. They have to provide you with this information; you're entitled to it. Send your request via certified mail, or some other trackable way to ensure that your request does not go unnoticed. This can be helpful in the event that you need evidence that the lawyer has refused to provide you with this information.

Next, contact your local state bar and initiate a complaint. Most states have a state bar that is in charge of attorney misconduct and disciplinary actions. The process is fairly similar with all state bars; they will either provide you with a complaint form, or you can type or write out your complaint on your own stationery. As long as its written legibly and clearly illustrates your reason for the complaint, that is what matters most.

Before you file your complaint, you want to make sure that it will be taken seriously, and investigated thoroughly. Take a few moments to look up the "ethical rules" for your state bar. Ethics are what govern the behavior and responsibilities of attorneys. If you can find ethics violations that relate specifically to your case or your experience with your lawyer, be sure to reference them in your complaint. Some complaints, such as attorney rudeness will not go very far with the state bar. However, complaints concerning a breach of ethics can usually be dealt with accordingly.

Use the information that you have learned to generate a well written, carefully worded complaint. Try to include specific dates, times and incidents from your notes as accurately as possible, in order to draft a well organized complaint that will be legible and easy to understand. Make sure that your complaint looks professional and organized and clearly states your causes for concern. Take an extra minute to run a spell check and break the complaint into different paragraphs to make it more readable. 

If you haven't received a confirmation notice from the state bar in a reasonable amount of time, you may want to send a written follow up to see if they have received your complaint. It is a good idea to retain a copy of all of your correspondence for your records. Only submit copies to the bar; always retain your original paperwork.

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