What is an ethics grievance?
An ethics grievance/ bar complaint/ ethics inquiry are all interchangeable words for a complaint made against an attorney alleging misconduct or a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct.
Who can file a grievance?
Anyone can file an ethics grievance against an attorney. Clients, former clients, opposing parties, other attorneys, and even judges can file a grievance against you alleging violations and misconduct.
A grievance has been received, these are your next steps:
- Stay calm. Do not let your emotions overwhelm you.
- Read the contents in its entity and take special note of any dates, specifically when a response is required. Request an extension if one is necessary.
- Retain all documents and materials in relation to the underlying matter as well as the pending ethics matter. Review these materials prior to drafting your response.
- Contact your insurance carrier. This serves as initial notice that there might be future problems, and you may have coverage for outside counsel for defense of this complaint in your policy. Make sure to provide proper documentation with your notice for the carrier’s file.
- Respond to the complaint. Answer any specific questions asked. Be diligent, honest, and comprehensive. Make certain that your answer is clear and easy to understand. Cooperation is very important in the initial response and any supplemental requests in relation to the inquiry/investigation.
- Be patient. Once you have submitted your response, whether individually or through outside counsel, each state has a process to determine the outcome. It may take some time.
- Once you receive a disposition/resolution, make sure to go over it thoroughly and notify your carrier of the resolution.
- Many states allow a period of time for the complainant to appeal the disposition that is given. This may essentially restart the process. Follow any steps that are requested of you.
Ethics matters can be scary, frustrating, and even disheartening but bad things happen to good lawyers and ALPS can help you through.