Filing a complaint against an attorney

Filing a Complaint Against an Attorney

Oklahoma Statutes Title 5, Chp. 1:

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Download the complaint form

The primary purpose of the lawyer discipline system is to protect the public. The Oklahoma Supreme Court gives the Oklahoma Bar Association, Office of the General Counsel, 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 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 Office of the General Counsel.

By law, any complaint you make against an attorney must be in writing and must be signed. Complaints must be an original document mailed or delivered to our office. The Office of the General Counsel does not accept complaints by telephone, fax or e-mail.

The Office of the General Counsel cannot investigate complaints of malpractice, decide legal questions or give legal advice. Usually, the Office does not have jurisdiction over issues pending in court or situations occurring in a lawyer's personal life, such as disagreements with neighbors, creditors or spouses.

Filing a Complaint

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. Although the conduct of an attorney may seem inappropriate, it may not necessarily constitute a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct. You may not like what a lawyer does, but that does not necessarily make his or her conduct unethical. For example, the Office receives complaints against lawyers who represent other parties, such as the lawyer of a spouse in a divorce proceeding. Before filing a complaint against your opponent's attorney, remember that it is the attorney's job to zealously represent his or her client.

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. Disputes about legal fees are not usually investigated by the Office of the General Counsel. Written fee arrangements are always encouraged. For more information check out the Oklahoma Bar Association’s brochure, Lawyers and Legal Fees.

Examples of complaints the Office of the General Counsel has the 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, inform you about court dates, or appear in court
  • a lawyer does not 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

In your grievance, you will need to describe in full detail the nature of your complaint against the attorney. Be sure to include important dates, 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, letters or notes you think will help the Office of the General Counsel understand your complaint.

To request a Complaint Form, contact the 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.

Complaints against judges are handled by the Council on Judicial Complaints. To obtain a required form, contact the Council on Judicial Complaints at 1901 N. Lincoln Blvd, Oklahoma City, OK 73105-4999, (405) 522-4800.

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
  • notify you that the Office can take no action

Because of the large number of complaints received, it may take the Office a few weeks to respond to your grievance in writing. If an investigation is opened, you will be notified in writing and if appropriate, contacted by an investigator or attorney. 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 a formal investigation is conducted, the Office of the General Counsel will present the complaint to the Professional Responsibility Commission (“PRC”). The PRC will determine if there is clear and convincing evidence to show a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct, and whether formal disciplinary action should be initiated. All grievances are confidential until and unless the Oklahoma Supreme Court determines otherwise. If formal charges are filed against an attorney, a hearing may be held, and you may be required to appear as a witness.

Lawyers who are found to have committed serious misconduct by the Oklahoma Supreme Court, such as theft of client funds, may be suspended or disbarred from practicing law. Lesser misconduct may result in public censure or private reprimand.

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 filed a complaint. Valuable legal rights could be lost if you wait for the Office of the General Counsel to complete its investigation. To find out if you have other remedies against the lawyer, talk to another attorney. If a lawyer has committed a crime, you should report that conduct to the appropriate prosecuting authorities.

For more detailed information about the disciplinary process, see What the General Counsel Does.