How to Draft a Bar Complaint


A bar complaint is a complaint individuals may file against an attorney who they believe has violated state rules of professional conduct governing lawyers. Since each state governs attorneys separately, you must file your complaint with your state bar association. While forms vary from state to state, the process is a straightforward one, requiring you to record the details of your relationship with the attorney, the specifics of the case, and describe in detail the complaint. Complaints and the investigation are confidential, and if the bar association finds clear and convincing evidence of misconduct, the attorney can be sanctioned, suspended or barred from the practice of law in your state.

Things You'll Need

  • Bar complaint form
  • Obtain a complaint form from the bar association in your state. There are county and state bar associations, so you may be able to file with both organizations. Some states such as Idaho provide forms online. The American Bar Association provides a directory of state bar associations for assistance locating the bar association in your state.

  • Enter specifics of the attorney-client arrangement, including your full name and contact information, followed by the full name of the attorney and information on when you retained her and the fee arrangement. Enter in a narrative of the legal issue for which the attorney was retained and what occurred to give rise to your complaint. Be as specific as possible in regard to what ethical violation you believe the attorney committed.

  • File by mail your complaint with the state bar association, and wait to be contacted. The bar association will have its own attorneys who handle such investigations, and the attorney or an investigator will contact you to review your complaint. The investigators may require additional information, and a copy of the complaint typically will be provided to the subject of the complaint.

Tips & Warnings

  • Bar associations can impose sanctions against an attorney's license to practice, but they cannot address legal malpractice. If you wish to sue your attorney for malpractice, contact a local attorney and handle the malpractice matter separately from the bar complaint.
  • Fees generally are not reviewed because fees do not involve questions of ethics or misconduct, unless you believe your attorney stole or diverted money from you.


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