Are You Unhappy With a Lawyer?
The following information will assist you if you are having problems with an Arizona lawyer. Please read all of the information before contacting the State Bar with your charge.
Please read "How the Lawyer Discipline Process Works" before contacting the State Bar.
Information about disputes with lawyers
All Arizona lawyers must follow the Rules of the Arizona Supreme Court, including the Rules of Professional Conduct contained in Rule 42. The Attorney/Consumer Assistance Program (A/CAP) acts as a central intake office for all inquiries concerning the conduct of lawyers in Arizona. At times, A/CAP can help to quickly resolve some disputes with lawyers. Other more serious matters are referred for investigation.
Here are a few examples of the kinds of conduct the State Bar has authority to investigate:
- A lawyer does not keep promises or does not perform work in a timely way.
- A lawyer continually fails to respond to inquiries about the case, to tell you about court dates or to appear in court.
- A lawyer lies or advises you or someone else to lie in the course of a case.
- A lawyer represents you as well as another person whose interests conflict with yours.
- A lawyer will not give you money being held on your behalf or will not give you a full written accounting.
You should also be aware of what the State Bar cannot do.
- The State Bar cannot investigate charges of malpractice or resolve legal issues.
- The State Bar does not investigate charges against judges. Allegations of misconduct against Arizona judges should be referred to the Commission on Judicial Conduct, Phoenix, AZ, 602.542.5200.
- The State Bar does not investigate charges against lawyers who are not licensed in Arizona unless they are practicing law in Arizona.
- The State Bar investigates charges where non-laywers are alleged to have engaged in the unauthorized practice of law. These types of allegations may be referred to other appropriate agencies for prosecution.
A client has the right to end a relationship with a lawyer for any reason. However, not every reason is grounds for the Bar to discipline the attorney. Lawyers sometimes make mistakes that upset clients, but that do not constitute ethical violations.
Many charges are filed by someone other than the lawyer's client. This is especially common in the area of family law, where one spouse files a charge against the lawyer of the other spouse. Before filing a charge against your opponent's lawyer, remember that it is a lawyer's duty to represent his or her client. You may not like what the lawyer is doing, particularly if it has a negative impact on you, but that does not necessarily make the conduct unethical.
In addition, if there is a dispute over legal fees, the parties are encouraged to use the State Bar Fee Arbitration Program, which provides a low cost method for resolving fee disputes. The cost of legal services is generally left to an agreement between the lawyer and the client. Starting December 1, 2003, with very few exceptions, a written fee agreement will be required between a lawyer and client. Lawyers and Legal Fees (Fee Arbitration, Client Protection Fund, Attorney Trust Account).
The State Bar may not give legal advice; however, we do ask that ethical violations be brought to our attention.
Client Rights and Responsibilities
When you hire a lawyer, you are entitled to one who:
- Will represent you diligently and ethically.
- Will be capable of handling your case. Before you hire a lawyer, ask about their education, training and experience. The lawyer will inform you periodically about the status of your case and give you copies, if you request, of legal documents prepared on your behalf.
- Will charge you a reasonable fee and tell you in advance, in writing, the basis for that fee. You are encouraged to ask questions about the proposed fee.
- Will provide an estimate of the expenses for which you are responsible. You should inquire as to the potential costs if your case is lost. Before paying a bill, you are entitled to a written statement of the charges for which you are paying.
- Will keep statements and information which you reveal in the course of your relationship confidential.
- Will give you the right to make the ultimate decisions on the legitimate objectives to be pursued in your case, including deciding whether or not to settle your case.
- Will show you courtesy and respect.
- Will exercise independent professional judgment on your behalf, free from compromising influence.
When you hire a lawyer, you have the responsibility:
- To give the lawyer a truthful and candid recitation of the facts of your case. A lawyer can only help a client when there has been full disclosure. You have the responsibility to promptly notify the lawyer of changed circumstances.
- To give the lawyer prompt responses to reasonable and necessary requests.
- To understand that the lawyer has many other clients and to realize that other clients are equally deserving of the lawyer's time and efforts.
- To set appointments in advance rather than showing up at the office and expecting to be seen.
- To treat the lawyer with courtesy and respect.
- To communicate in a timely manner with the lawyer if you are unhappy regarding the representation and the reasons why.
- To refrain from asking the lawyer to engage in behavior which is inappropriate, unethical, unprofessional, or illegal.
- To be on time for all legal proceedings.
- To pay the agreed-upon lawyer's fee in a prompt manner. If unforeseen circumstances arise concerning payment, you should inform the lawyer of the reasons for nonpayment. If any billing entries are in question, you should give immediate notice to the lawyer.
If you have any questions about an Arizona lawyer's conduct, contact the State Bar of Arizona at 602.340.7280. It is not necessary to submit anything in writing until you have spoken to an A/CAP lawyer.