How to file an ethics complaint against a lawyer

Practicing lawyers must stick to ethical standards to maintain their credibility. Clients expect lawyers to be ethical and professional while handling the cases. But in cases where clients want to file complaints against lawyers, they want to know what requirements they would need to fulfil, and how to file an ethics complaint against a lawyer.

Why file an ethical complaint against a lawyer?

Some common reasons that you need to consider before filing a complaint against a lawyer, may include:

  • The lawyer you approach for your concerns is not responding to your queries neither via messages nor through calls or emails.
  • You have been told that your settlement check has been sent to your lawyer, but your lawyer failed to inform you about the check or any development thereafter while receiving the check.
  • The lawyer handles your case on his own and settles it out of the court without getting your permission and fails to inform you about the development.
  • If the lawyer refuses to return your documents after the case settlements
  • If the lawyer refuses to withdraw your case despite having a conflict of interest
  • If the lawyer is disloyal to you, or shows uncalled for behavior in the court, or fails to abide by the rule of law
  • If the lawyer is found to have criminal conduct

In cases where you are not sure that the misconduct of your lawyer is either professional delinquency or not, then you must visit your state’s disciplinary office to discuss the issue prior to making the written complaint.

After the discussion with your state’s disciplinary office -to combat any of the situations written above – you can file the complaint against your lawyer.

You must follow these steps to file the complaint against any misconduct on part of the lawyer.

Steps to file an ethics complaint against a lawyer

  • A complaint would be filed against the lawyer in the form of a petition. The complaint needs to be verified and signed according to the provisions of Civil Procedure. The complaint should be written and filed in language that is deemed appropriate for making legal statements.
  • The State Bar Council Secretary will recall the complainant to resolve the charged fee issue if the prescribed fee has not been submitted. Other than that, complainants would also be called if the required documents are not properly submitted, or the copies that are attached are not scanned appropriately, or if other documents are required. The Secretary of the Bar Council will then look at the complaint if it has the professional reason and enough evidence to be considered fit to pass further.
  • A complainant can withdraw the complaint in case he doesn’t want to proceed with the complaint or the matter has been resolved. Prior to filing the misconduct complaint, the Bar council provides the complainant a period in which he has to submit certain particulars to the disciplinary committee.
  • Once the Bar Counsel sends the documents to the disciplinary committee, the Registrar sends the summons to the alleged lawyer. The committee has the right to ask the concerned lawyer to respond to the allegations against him, and report to the committee on the specified The committee will also direct the lawyer to submit the required affidavits and documents in support of his defense. The notice will further tell the lawyer to guarantee his presence on the specified date, else the case would be heard in his absence.
  • The Committee’s Chairman is responsible to make the adjustments regarding the date, time, and the place where the inquiry has to be scheduled. Generally, the date of the inquiry is set for 30 days after the date of the complaint reference. Once the inquiry is scheduled, the Committee Registrar will inform the complainant, any other plaintiff, and the concerned lawyer.
  • Advocates representing the complainant and the lawyer should appear at the given time and place, along with the required documents. Lack of documents, or absence of an advocate will not be accounted for as a reason to postpone the hearing or case cancellation. The advocate and the concerned lawyer or the complainant will be informed through bar counsel email service, or summons about the verdict.

What happens after the Disciplinary Committee hearing?

After hearing arguments to ascertain the presence of conflict between the two, the State Bar Committee will decide whether the case needs more evidence to proceed further or not. In this case, if the Committee has decided the verdict, then it will be written and saved, and both parties will be informed through the written notification from the Bar Committee.

Before deciding to award any punishment to the lawyer, the committee works to resolve the issue. If the efforts are not successful, then the complaint further moves to the evidentiary panel to get the final verdict about the complaint.

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