Reporting A Lawyer For Ethical Violations

Report A Lawyer For Misconduct

Lawyers are not perfect. They make mistakes all the time. Most of the time the mistakes are small such as forgetting to give extra documents to the court or to the opposing party as required, or forgetting to schedule a meeting. In other circumstances, the mistakes can be rather severe, such as missing an important filing deadline, letting the statute of limitations run when they should not have, give important confidential information to the opposing party, or abusing client funds. In the case of severe mistakes an attorney may make they can suffer from discipline from the state for such violations, and for mishandling the legal ethical conduct they have sworn to uphold. Ultimately they can be barred to ever practice law again and even face criminal charges. Thus when considering to report a lawyer it is important that make certain their action warrants misconduct.

Report A Lawyer: Lawyers Rules Of Professional Conduct

As a result or being heavily involved with confidential client communication, and the plethora of matters an attorney may handle (from financial matters to divorce to criminal defense) when an attorney is hired individuals put their trust in their lawyer to represent them to the best of their ability. To guard citizens and the veracity of the legal profession each state has a special code of conducts specifically for lawyers that they are required, by law to adhere to. A simple search of your state and the phrase “lawyers rule of professional conduct”. The American Bar Association also lists a number of ethical violations. The ethical violations presented cover a number of issues that may arise as a result of representing a client including the proper way to communicate with clients, how to handle client funds, the proper way to financial charge clients, confidentiality elements, and issues regarding a conflict of interest. Some of the most common complaints that have been reported to bar associations from individuals that report a lawyer include:

  • Not properly communicating with a client
    • Attorneys are required to keep clients informed about the status of their cases and to reasonably respond to their clients questions or comments.
  • Conflicts of Interest
    • Attorneys must inform clients if they have any conflicts of interest and should not take a case if a conflict exists
  • Return of Documents
    • After a case is closed an attorney must return all documents the client gave to them. Or if the attorney is fired by the client, the attorney must still return all documents that were given to them by the client, this is true even if the attorney is still owed money from the client.
  • Financial Issues
    • An attorney cannot steal client funds, misuse client funds, charge excessive fees, or lie to a client regarding their financial situation. A dispute involving attorney fees can easily be decided through arbitration or through a contract.

Report A Lawyer: Disciplinary Action

Each state has a board that enforces the attorney rules of conduct. The board is governed by the Supreme Court of the state and has the power to investigate violations, conduct evidentiary hearings, and dole out discipline. On some state sites you can determine if a lawyer has ever been disciplined in the past or if they are under investigation.  The agency can also do the following:

  • Issue a public or private reprimand
  • Make the lawyer pay financial restitution to the client
  • Suspend the lawyer
  • Disbar the Lawyer

Report A Lawyer: Filing a Complaint to the State Bar

If the attorney that is representing you has violated an ethical rule, or you think they have you can issue a complaint on a form located on your State Bars website, where it will assist you in reporting the lawyer. You simply need to have your attorneys contact information and a description of the problem or issue. When you report a lawyer, be prepared to corporate with the bar, they will likely need further details and information from you in order to properly discipline the attorney if it is found that they have violated an ethical rule. The board, consisting of both lawyers and non lawyers will determine if the attorney has violated a regulation. The attorney will have a chance to refute the allegations. If you’re looking to receive compensation more so than discipline from the attorney than you should look into filing a malpractice lawsuit against the attorney. These suits are difficult to win, but if you suffered some type of financial loss this is the best way to recover.

The American Bar Association also has additional information when it comes to reporting lawyer for misconduct or ethical violations. The most important thing when you report a lawyer is to make sure you have evidence and documentation. The link to the American Bar Association Article can be found here.

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