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 central “intake office first reviews all inquiries concerning the conduct of lawyers in Arizona. At times, intake can help to quickly resolve some disputes with lawyers. Other more serious matters are referred for a screening investigation.
Here are a few examples of the kinds of conduct the State Bar can investigate:
- A lawyer does not perform work the lawyer was hired to perform or does not perform work in a timely way.
- A lawyer continually fails to respond to inquiries about the case, to tell a client about court dates, or to appear in court.
- A lawyer lies or advises a client or someone else to lie in the course of a case.
- A lawyer represents a client in addition to another person whose interests’ conflict with the client’s.
- A lawyer 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 types of allegations may, however, be referred to other appropriate agencies for prosecution.
If your main concern about your lawyer is the amount of fees you have been charged, you may want to consider these things before submitting a charge. As a client, you are entitled to receive from your lawyer 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, in most instances you should request this from the lawyer prior to deciding whether to submit a charge. You should review billing statements or accounting to ensure that the charges are accurate and note any entries that you have questions about. You should discuss the issue of fees with the lawyer directly before submitting a charge with the State Bar. Sometimes the parties are able to 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 between lawyers and clients. If the lawyer has agreed to participate in the State Bar Fee Arbitration Program in the fee agreement, the lawyer is required to participate. Even if the fee agreement does not include a provision for fee arbitration, many lawyers 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, you should 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 and get some tips 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 complaining about opposing counsel in ongoing litigation, you should always let your attorney know before doing so. Your charge could adversely impact 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. 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, also called “an accounting,” 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.
- 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 showing up at the office and expecting to be seen.
- Treat the lawyer with courtesy and respect.
- Communicate in a timely manner with the lawyer if you are unhappy regarding the representation and the reasons why.
- 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 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.
Submitting a Charge
If, after reviewing the above information, you wish to submit a charge click here.