Filing A Complaint
Complaints Against Attorneys
You should register a complaint with the State Bar if you believe that your lawyer acted improperly but not just because there is some disagreement between you or you believe he or she did a poor job. For such a disagreement, you should pursue alternative methods of settling attorney-client disputes when available.
All lawyers who practice in California must live up to ethical standards imposed by the California Supreme Court and the state legislature. As an arm of the California Supreme Court, the State Bar investigates and prosecutes complaints against lawyers.
Depending on the seriousness of the offense, a lawyer can be given a warning, put on probation, suspended from practicing law for a period of time or disbarred (prohibited from practicing law in California).
The bar has limited authority to discipline lawyers for such behavior as rudeness or making a single honest mistake. It is limited by law to complaints about unethical behavior as defined in the Rules of Professional Conduct and/or the State Bar Act.
If you believe that your lawyer acted unethically, you should file a complaint. The complaint form should be mailed to the State Bar at the address indicated. Be sure to follow the instructions.
Some things you should know about filing a complaint:
- There is no fee to file a complaint.
- You do not have to be a U.S. citizen to file a complaint.
- When you register a complaint, you should supply photocopies of any papers, such as letters or canceled checks that relate to the problem.
- The State Bar will send you a postcard when your complaint form has been received.
- Your complaint will be read by a State Bar lawyer to determine how the complaint will proceed. The process can take from two to three weeks.
- Your complaint will then be assigned to a staff member to conduct an investigation.
- You will be informed of the status of the investigation by a State Bar representative.
- At the end of the investigation you will be informed in writing if your complaint will proceed to prosecution in the State Bar Court or if it will be closed.
NOTE: The State Bar's primary jurisdiction involves regulation of attorneys. However, it is authorized by statute to take limited action against non-attorneys under certain circumstances. If you have information about the possible unlawful practice of law by an unlicensed individual, please call 1-800-843-9053. You should send supporting documents or other information to: The State Bar of California, Office of the Chief Trial Counsel, Intake Unit, 1149 S. Hill Street, Los Angeles, CA 90015-2299, Attn: UPL Project.