There are several reasons why a client may want to write a complaint letter to his or her attorney, but the client must understand the difference between a problem with their lawyer that is because of miscommunication or misunderstanding and a serious breach of trust.
Rules of Professional Conduct
A client trusts his or her attorney to act ethically and uphold the laws of the United States, their state and the Rules of Professional Conduct.
If any of these are breached, then the lawyer is subject to discipline and can be privately reprimanded or permanently lose his or her license to practice law.
Some examples of serious breaches of ethics for which the attorney can be disciplined are:
- Not keeping their client fully informed about the developments of their case
- Not properly accounting for the client’s money or returning money owed
- Not returning the client’s case file if they hire another attorney
- Intentionally making false statements
- Committing malpractice or being negligent
- Charging an excessive or illegal fee
If the client believes that their lawyer has committed one or all of the above, they should first arrange a face-to-face meeting to discuss their concerns. This may clear up any misunderstandings and the case can go forward.
However, if the lawyer will not meet the client, they can send a complaint letter explaining the problem and request a response.
If they are still not satisfied, they can fire their attorney and hire another one. Simply because a client is not happy with their lawyer’s performance, does not necessarily mean the lawyer deserves discipline.
Right To Complain
A person has the right to complain against any attorney who is involved in legal issues concerning that person. They may write a complaint letter to an attorney who is representing them or to an attorney who is working against their case.
Any letter should be written in a professional tone and in formal business style. It should be typed on a computer and printed. A handwritten letter will not present a professional message.
If there is a clear idea of what to expect from their lawyer, many problems can be avoided.
To avoid problems with their attorney, clients should:
- Get a fee agreement in writing and request to be billed promptly
- Understand the realistic expectations for the outcome of their case
- Give their lawyer all documentation promptly
- Get all important understandings in writing and keep a record of phone calls to their lawyer
The complaint should be succinctly and clearly stated so that the letter can be as short as possible. The client may want to make a list of complaints before starting to write to clarify their thoughts.
Even if the client uses the lawyer’s first name in regular communication, the complaint letter should be address to the lawyer’s formal name. This maintains the professional tone.
If there are several complaints, each one should be clearly stated in its own paragraph. The most serious should be the first. The letter should give examples of the problem with dates and times.
The client should not use derogatory remarks or write in an angry or threatening tone. After stating the problem, the client can give a suggestion of how the problem can be solved.
Here is a sample complaint letter to an attorney. This letter is not intended for a complaint requiring disciplinary action.
The client should send the letter by certified mail, so they have proof of when it was sent and received in the event there is no resolution to the complaint and further action is required. The client should also keep a copy of the letter.
Sample Complaint Letter To An Attorney
City, State, Zip Code
City, State, Zip Code
Dear Mr. / Mrs. / Ms. Surname of Attorney,
I am writing this letter to bring to your attention an action on your part that has caused me financial difficulty. You told me on DATE that you would forward my documents to the court within the next week.
It has now been one month and the documents have not been forwarded. Because of this delay in the progress of my case, I have been liable for $10,000 in mortgage payment for the concerned apartment house.
I would also like to mention that I have not been able to get an appointment with you for the past two weeks to discuss this problem. If this error of communication had been addressed earlier, I would not have incurred additional expense.
I require you to make this situation right by paying the extra cost I incurred for payment on my mortgage for the apartment house, and expediting my case as early as possible.
I can be reached at 555-123-4567 or at Name@email.com and would like to meet with you to resolve this issue.