Filing a Complaint Against an Attorney
The Oklahoma Bar Association investigates allegations of unethical conduct against lawyers practicing in Oklahoma. If you believe your attorney has acted improperly, you may file a complaint with the OBA's Office of the General Counsel. The primary purpose of the lawyer discipline system is to protect the public.
The Oklahoma Supreme Court gives the Oklahoma Bar Association the authority to investigate complaints against lawyers. Funding for lawyer discipline comes from annual dues paid by all state bar members, not by tax dollars.
The Office of the General Counsel cannot investigate complaints of malpractice, decide legal questions or give legal advice. Usually the state bar has no jurisdiction over issues pending in court or situations occurring in a lawyer's personal life, such as disagreements with neighbors, creditors or spouses.
As a client, you have a right to expect competent representation from your attorney. If you are dissatisfied, you may fire the attorney. However, not every reason to terminate your attorney's services is grounds for disciplining the attorney. Lawyers are people who sometimes make mistakes that upset clients but the errors may not be grounds for discipline.
Examples of complaints the state bar does have authority to investigate are:
- a lawyer holding money on your behalf will not return the money or provide you with a written accounting of how it was spent
- a lawyer consistently does not respond to questions about your case, to inform you about court dates or to appear in court
- a lawyer doesn't tell the truth or asks you or another person to lie as part of the case
- a lawyer fails to follow through with what was promised or does not perform the action in a timely manner
If you think your attorney's bill is too high, call the attorney and discuss it. Most lawyers maintain detailed records of time spent and expenses associated with each case and can itemize or explain any charges you may question. Written fee arrangements are always encouraged. For more information check out the state bar's Lawyers and Legal Fees brochure.
By law any complaint you make against an attorney must be in writing and must be signed. We encourage that all complaints be an original document mailed or delivered to our office.
You will need to describe in full detail the nature of your complaint. Be sure to include dates, state what you employed the lawyer to do and what the attorney did or did not do. Include copies (not originals) of any documents you may have, such as a fee agreement, court papers, letter or notes that you think will help the Office of the General Counsel to understand the complaint.
A form is not required, but if you would like to request one, contact Office of the General Counsel, Oklahoma Bar Association, P.O. Box 53036, Oklahoma City, OK 73152-3036, (405) 416-7007, or you may print the form, fill it out and mail it in.
Once a Complaint is Received
From the written information and documents you submit, the Office of the General Counsel will review the information and may decide to:
- open an investigation
- ask you to provide more information
- direct the attorney to provide a written response
- notify you that the office can take no action
Because of the large number of complaints received, it may take the state bar a few weeks to contact you once it's received. If an investigation is opened, you will be notified in writing and when necessary will be contacted by an investigator or attorney. A copy of your complaint will be sent to the attorney, who will be asked to respond in writing.
Even if an investigation is not opened, you will still be notified. A copy of your complaint will be forwarded to the attorney for his or her information.
If an investigation is conducted and the state bar decides there is probable cause to think the attorney violated ethics rules and there is clear and convincing evidence to show the violation, formal disciplinary action may be initiated. All state bar investigations are confidential. A hearing may be held, and you may be required to appear as a witness.
Any complaints against judges are handled by the Council on Judicial Complaints. To obtain a required form, contact the council at 1901 N. Lincoln Blvd, Oklahoma City, OK 73105-4999, (405) 522-4800. Complaints about attorneys are not handled by the Council on Judicial Complaints. Those concerns should be directed to the OBA as set out below.
Protect Your Rights
The Office of the General Counsel cannot provide legal advice nor represent you in any pending litigation; therefore, you must protect your own legal interests. Don't postpone researching other possible remedies you may have against the lawyer because you have filed a complaint. Valuable legal rights could be lost if you wait for the state bar to finish its investigation. To find out if you have other remedies against the lawyer, talk to another attorney. If the lawyer has committed a crime, you should report that conduct to appropriate prosecuting authorities.