When an attorney fails to fulfill his or her legal duties toward a client, legal malpractice litigation can ban an effective way to obtain compensation or relief from the consequences of the attorney’s substandard representation. Those who believe they may have suffered loss because of poor legal advocacy work should consult an experienced attorney to have their case evaluated and to determine their options for seeking relief.
Another avenue for holding a negligent attorney accountable is to file a complaint with the secretary of the district ethics committee for the district where the attorney has his or her primary law office. There are 17 district ethics committees throughout the state, and any member of the public may call a hotline to be transferred to their district committee to file a complaint about an attorney. Complaints that meet certain requirements are referred to the Supreme Court.
Sufficient detail about facts, as well as documentation that allows authorities to conduct their own investigation, should be provided in filing a complaint. The more details are provided, the more quickly a proper investigation can proceed. Complaints, of course, are not handled only on the basis of the facts provided by the complainant. Rather, a full investigation of the facts determines how the case is resolved.
Complaints involving certain matters, and complaints which do not allege unethical conduct under the Rules of Professional Conduct, are not pursued. For other complaints, an investigation is conducted, but it is only if there is clear and convincing evidence of unethical conduct that a formal complaint is prepared.
Ethical complaints have to go through an established process involving hearings, review by the Supreme Court’s Disciplinary Review Board, and Supreme Court review, in some cases. Throughout the process, the complainant’s identity is kept confidential.
No money or loss reimbursement is available in the ethical complaint process, though those who have lost money due to dishonest conduct by an attorney may be able to obtain compensation through the Lawyer’s Fund for Client Protection.
There is no substitute for legal malpractice litigation in helping an individual recover from negligent representation, but an ethical complaint can be an alternative way for an individual to hold a negligent attorney accountable.