When you hire a lawyer after a car accident or other personal injury, the most important thing to consider is whether you trust that person. Yes, there are other things to look for, too — such as experience and skill. But knowing that your lawyer is ethical, truthful, and honest will be crucial as you enter an attorney/client relationship.
Each attorney is required to follow the Rules of Professional Conduct set forth by the American Bar Association. Each state has its own rules, too. Some rules are based on how attorneys advertise or represent themselves, but others have to do with how they handle clients’ money or your case file.
Just because you may not agree with your attorney or do not get along with them doesn’t mean that they are necessarily behaving unprofessionally or unethically.
Here are a few examples of what an attorney might do that violates the ABA Rules:
As in any other professional capacity, there is a scale of disciplinary action that can be taken against a lawyer that depends on the nature of the violation.
The state or local bar association will either issue a reprimand or put the lawyer on probation, suspension, or disbarment (which is the loss of their license to practice law). Each state’s bar association will determine how to handle these disciplinary measures.
|Alabama State Bar Center for Professional Responsibility||Alaska Bar Association|
|Arkansas Office of the Committee on Professional Conduct||State Bar of California|
|Colorado Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel||Connecticut Statewide Grievance Committee|
|Delaware Office of Disciplinary Counsel||District of Columbia Office of Disciplinary Counsel|
|The Florida Bar||General Counsel, State Bar of Georgia|
|Disciplinary Board of the Hawaii Supreme Court, Office of Disciplinary Counsel||Bar Counsel for the Idaho State Bar|
|Illinois Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission||Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission|
|Iowa Supreme Court Office of Professional Regulation||Kansas Disciplinary Administrator Office|
|Chief Bar Counsel, Kentucky Bar Association||Louisiana Office of the Disciplinary Counsel|
|Bar Counsel, Maine Board of Overseers of the Bar||Attorney Grievance Commission of Maryland|
|Massachusetts Office of the Bar Counsel||Michigan Grievance Administrator, Attorney Grievance Commission or Attorney Disciplinary Board|
|Minnesota Office of Professional Responsibility||General Counsel, Mississippi State Bar|
|Missouri Supreme Court, Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel||Montana Disciplinary Counsel|
|Montana Disciplinary Counsel||Counsel for Discipline, Nebraska Supreme Court|
|Bar Counsel, State Bar of Nevada||New Hampshire Supreme Court, Attorney Discipline Office|
|Office of Attorney Ethics, Supreme Court of New Jersey||Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of New Mexico|
|New York City, 1st Department
New York City, 2nd Department
New York State, 3rd Department
New York State, 4th Department
|North Carolina State Bar|
|North Dakota Secretary of the Disciplinary Board||Office of the Disciplinary Counsel of the Supreme Court of Ohio
Administrator-Grievance Committee Dayton Bar Association
The Toledo Bar Association
Grievance Director Akron Bar Association
General Counsel, Cincinnati Bar Association
Bar Counsel, Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association
Bar Counsel, Columbus Bar Association
|General Counsel Oklahoma Bar Association||Oregon State Bar Disciplinary Counsel’s Office|
|Pennsylvania Chief Disciplinary Counsel||Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Rhode Island|
|South Carolina Office of Disciplinary Counsel||South Dakota Disciplinary Board Counsel|
|Board of Professional Responsibility of the Supreme Court of Tennessee||Texas Chief Disciplinary Counsel|
|Utah State Bar Office of Professional Conduct||Vermont Office of Disciplinary Counsel|
|Virginia Bar Counsel||Director of the Office of Disciplinary Counsel
Washington State Bar Association
|West Virginia Office of Disciplinary Counsel||Wisconsin Office of Lawyer Regulation|
|Bar Counsel, Wyoming State Bar||American Samoa Bar Association|
|GBA Ethics Prosecutor, Office of the Guam Bar Association Guam Judicial Center||Tribunal Supremo de Puerto Rico Department of Justice
Colegio de Abogados de Puerto Rico
|Office of Disciplinary Counsel Supreme Court of the Virgin Islands|
There are also reporting agencies related to patent and military attorneys:
If you believe that your lawyer’s conduct violates the Rules of Ethics, you should probably begin by contacting your own state bar association for more information. The staff can tell you whether your claim rises to the level of filing a complaint.