How Do I Report a Lawyer to the Bar Association?

Attorneys owe a fiduciary and professional duty to act in their clients’ best interests and provide competent representation, while adhering to high standards of conduct and not engaging in misconduct. If your attorney breaches these duties and causes financial loss as a result, filing a complaint may be an option; it would be wiser first to try and work things out directly with them first before resorting to formal complaints against them.

First step should be contacting your state bar association. Each website offers you a complaint form and guidance on how to fill it out, while their disciplinary board reviews your complaint and determines whether further investigation warrants it. If they find no evidence of misconduct, your case will likely be closed and they’ll usually notify your attorney who can submit his response before taking a formal hearing decision on it if needed.

New York State legal ethics govern attorney misconduct. Rule 8.3 requires attorneys to notify an appropriate authority if another attorney’s violation of any rules raises substantial doubt about his or her honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as an attorney; the law makes clear this includes defalcations schemes and criminal activity.

If you are uncertain if an act of misconduct meets this threshold, contact a legal assistance program in your state to discuss it. These programs often reimburse victims of improper attorney conduct with money collected through attorneys’ fees; thus they cannot always cover 100% of claims submitted.

Check your local laws to see if there are additional funds that may help if an attorney defrauded you. Many states offer client security and indemnity funds that provide compensation if an attorney misappropriated or concealed money or property from you; contact your state disciplinary board for more details on applying to these programs.

ABA’s Directory of State Discipline Agencies can assist in finding an agency in your jurisdiction. Once it has reviewed your complaint, state bar officials will investigate and, if necessary, sanction an attorney involved. If financial loss has resulted from attorney negligence or misconduct, legal malpractice lawsuits can be filed to recover damages.

While lack of communication or fee disputes may be at the root of most complaints, it’s important to keep in mind that legitimate disagreements exist regarding how your case should be managed; these differences do not constitute unethical behavior. If disciplinary proceedings become necessary as a last resort.

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