Information about disputes with lawyers:
All Arizona lawyers and alternative business structures (ABS) must follow the Rules of the Arizona Supreme Court, including the Rules of Professional Conduct contained in Rule 42. Legal paraprofessionals (LPs) must follow the Rules of Professional Conduct and the Code of Conduct for LPs contained in ACJA § 7-210(J). The central intake office first reviews all inquiries about allegations of misconduct. Sometimes intake can help to resolve disputes quickly. More serious matters are referred for a screening investigation.
Here are a few examples of conduct the State Bar can investigate:
- A lawyer, ABS, or LP does not perform work they were hired to perform or does not perform work reasonably promptly.
- A lawyer, ABS, or LP continually fails to respond to inquiries about the case, to tell a client about court dates, or to appear in court.
- A lawyer, ABS, or LP lies or advises a client or someone else in a case.
- A lawyer, ABS, or LP represents a client and another person whose interests’ conflict with the client’s.
- A lawyer, ABS, or LP will not give a client money being held on the client’s behalf or will not give a client a full written accounting.
- The State Bar also investigates charges where non-lawyers are alleged to have engaged in the unauthorized practice of law. These allegations may, be referred to other agencies for prosecution.
If your main concern is the fees you have been charged, consider these things before submitting a charge: As a client, you are entitled to receive billing statements, or an accounting of the work performed for you no matter what your fee arrangement is. If you have not received regular billing statements or an accounting, you should request this from the lawyer before deciding whether to submit a charge. Review billing statements or accountings to ensure the charges are accurate and note any entries you have questions about. Discuss the issue of fees with the lawyer directly before submitting a charge with the State Bar. Sometimes the parties can resolve issues by discussing their concerns.
You may also wish to utilize the State Bar’s Fee Arbitration Program. This is a no-cost program designed to arbitrate fee disputes. If a fee agreement includes an agreement to participate in the State Bar Fee Arbitration Program, the lawyer, ABS, or LP must participate. Even if the fee agreement does not include a provision for fee arbitration, many voluntarily participate in the program as it can be an effective way to quickly resolve disputes. For more information about fee arbitration, click here.
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, 602.452.3200.
- 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 cannot represent you, or intervene in your legal matter. The State Bar cannot change the outcome of your legal matter.
Helpful Information to Consider
- If you are not sure you want to make a charge, let us know. The assigned Bar Counsel will discuss your situation with you. During that discussion you can decide whether you wish to proceed with the charge. However, if there is evidence of serious misconduct (theft, criminal conduct, etc.) the State Bar may still proceed with an investigation, even though you do not want to proceed.
- If you are making a charge about your own attorney in an ongoing representation, understand that the charge alone is sufficient basis for the attorney to end the representation. However, you may still wish to discuss your problem with Bar Counsel for suggestions on how to remedy any problems with your attorney, without making a charge.
- If you are complaining about someone else’s attorney (who is not the opposing attorney), understand you are potentially interfering in that person’s attorney/client relationship (unless that person has asked you to do so). This may limit our investigation.
- If you are upset about opposing counsel in ongoing litigation, always let your attorney know before doing so. Your charge could adversely affect your litigation and possibly cause problems with your own attorney.
- The State Bar cannot change anything in your litigation. Interference with a court proceeding is most often inappropriate. That is why most charges against opposing counsel in ongoing litigation are closed, with an instruction to raise the issues with the court. Then, if the court makes a finding of inappropriate conduct or the case has reached a final resolution, we may reopen the matter for an investigation. There are limited exceptions to this general principle.
- Charges about attorneys involved in Juvenile matters (dependency, severance of parental rights, delinquency) may be limited because the proceedings are confidential, and the State Bar does not have access to the court docket or documents.
- The State Bar does not investigate allegations of attorney malpractice, unless the identified conduct is also a violation of the Ethical Rules.
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 should 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. Inquire about the potential costs if your case is lost. Before paying a bill, you are entitled to a written statement of the charges, also called “an accounting,” for which you are paying.
- Will keep statements and information which you reveal in 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.
- Give the lawyer prompt responses to reasonable and necessary requests.
- Understand that the lawyer has many other clients and to realize that other clients are equally deserving of the lawyer's time and efforts.
- Set appointments in advance rather than show up at the office and expect to be seen.
- Treat the lawyer with courtesy and respect.
- Communicate promptly with the lawyer if you are unhappy regarding the representation and the reasons.
- Refrain from asking the lawyer to engage in behavior that is inappropriate, unethical, unprofessional, or illegal.
- Be on time for all legal proceedings.
- Pay the lawyer’s agreed-upon fee promptly. If unforeseen circumstances arise about payment, inform the lawyer of the reasons for nonpayment. If you questions any billing entries notify the lawyer immediately.
Submitting a Charge
If, after reviewing the above information, you wish to submit a charge click here.