Reporting a Lawyer for Ethics Violations

Reporting a Lawyer

Lawyers are bound by a code of ethics that governs their professional conduct. While the majority of lawyers adhere to these standards, most states have appointed a Disciplinary Counsel to investigate and act on violations when they occur.

Typically, Disciplinary Counsel only investigate grievances that are brought to their attention via a complaint. Complaints may concern ethical violations that clients feel the lawyer has committed. Other practicing lawyers can also file complaints. Common consumer complaints include:

* Failure of the lawyer to communicate with the client
* Lawyer neglects to return the client’s documents
* Failure of the lawyer to safeguard client property
* Conflict of interest
* Misrepresentation
* Funds missing/fee disputes
* Non-professional conduct in handling of cases

Filing a Complaint

If a problem occurs with a lawyer, the client must file a complaint to the counsel in the state in which the lawyer is licensed. Generally, the process for filing a complaint involves either filling out a form provided by the Bar Association in the particular state, or writing a detailed letter. The detailed letter should contain the lawyer’s name, address, phone number, the circumstances under which the lawyer was hired and a description of the problem. Some states request additional documentation to be filed with the complaint.

In some states, a complaint may be filed by calling a hotline.
Complaint Review and Resolution

In most cases, a board of lawyers and non-lawyers reviews the complaint. If there might be some ethical violation, the lawyer in question is usually provided with a copy of the complaint and given 10-25 days (depending on the state), to respond to the complaint. In some states, clients are given a chance to comment on their lawyer’s response and to request that an investigation be opened. The case will either be dismissed if no evidence of a violation is found, or it will remain open. If the violation is found to be minor, a phone call or letter to the lawyer can readily resolve the issue. A hearing will be set up if the violation(s) are of a serious nature, based on the review of the board.


Most information is kept confidential until it’s released to the lawyer in question. Some states don’t allow anonymous cases because documentation is vital to the investigation. Disciplinary counsel needs the signature of the person filing the complaint on the complaint form or letter in case there is a need to testify in court. Some states allow anonymous complaints if the issues affect the general public, or if the board itself is able to bring the issue against the lawyer without further evidence from a client. If the state does allow anonymous complaints, a request for anonymity must be included in a detailed letter, on the form in which the complaint is filed or during the phone call.

Many state attorney general offices and other agencies provide consumer protection departments. (But it’s not usually a good idea to try to gain an advantage in a legal dispute over adversarial parties by threatening to contact a government agency if they don’t comply with your demands. It is possible that such action could be characterized as attempted extortion on your part.)

Cyber Law – How to Respond to Online Reputation Attacks?

Cyber Crimes

Today, people are using internet far more than they used to just one year ago. The number of users was growing exponentially and is still growing. Unfortunately, people often use internet for wrong purposes and one of them is also reputation attacks on other people. Because people consider internet as a private and anonymous thing, they think that they can write anything they want without even considering the damage that can be caused to other people. The fact that the statement wasn’t true is not important at all, because the damage is already done. In order to get your reputation back, you need to react on online attacks.

Two decades ago there wasn’t really any type of cyber law. Today, we can’t pick up a newspaper, without reading something about legal issues that involve the Internet, or the companies that do business there. The record and movie industry has been distraught over piracy, copyright infringement, and stolen intellectual property. And they have every right to be, but they aren’t taking it lying down.

Software companies are also being ripped off, and it’s not just in places like China where you might expect, a lot of stuff happens in the United States, and the Internet is worldwide, as we cross the digital divide. Sometimes people can’t afford songs or movies so they download from a website which has pirated the songs and movies, and then there are the people who build websites who distribute this material who find ways to get a hold of it, usually you legally themselves.

First of all, you may want to respond to accusations and explain your side of the story. In case the person who wrote defamatory remarks is reasonable, he/she will try to understand it and raise the level of communication. But, in case this person does not understand it, most lawyers will suggest injunction.

Injunction can be very powerful in case it’s used correctly. Most defamatory cases are solved with just the threat of injunction, because people are scared of the costs connected to it. The most important thing you need to keep in mind is to seek it against the correct person. Most effective injunctions are sought against the owners of the websites where the defamatory content is published. In addition to the individual writer, an injunction can also be sought against internet service provider.

On the other hand, injunction against unscrupulous people isn’t successful in many cases. People who consider themselves they have nothing to lose, are often even more aggressive with writing defamatory content after they receive a mere threat of injunction.

The most important thing we can do about keeping our online reputation is prevention. Treat your clients well, don’t give them reasons to hate you and write nasty things about you. In case someone still writes defamatory content about you, you might find out that your other clients are responding (writing comments, blog posts) with their positive experience. In this case, your reputation will even increase.