Filing a grievance against a lawyer 12: the decision?

Just to keep everyone up to date — and to give you a specific time line about what happens when you file a grievance against a lawyer, so you’ll understand why patience in all things legal is so important to your mental health:

  • In early April 2012, I carefully studied the Departmental Disciplinary Committee Complaints Against Lawyers instructions (previous Sidebar posts have links to these instructions) and printed out the complaint form.
  • On April 18, 2012, I mailed my 7-page complaint, with eight attached exhibits, to the Committee.
  • Around April 25, I received a card from the Office of Chief Counsel of the Committee, acknowledging receipt of my complaint, with a notice that it normally took the Committee between 30 and 45 days from the date of the card to forward further information to me.
  • In a letter dated May 8, 2012, the legal assistant for the Committee informed me that my complaint would be sent to the lawyer I was complaining about, so that he could answer. When the Committee received his answer, it would be sent to me, so that I could respond.
  • In a cover letter dated July 2, 2012, I received an answer to my complaint, dated June 26, 2012, by a lawyer retained by the lawyer about whom I had filed a complaint. It was 15 pages and attached seven exhibits. The cover letter informed me that “if [I] disagree with the attorney’s statement, please write us, telling us specifically how and why…”
  • On July 18, 2012, I hand-delivered to the Committee a 24-page response in disagreement, with an additional 9 exhibits.
  • On January 21, 2013, I wrote a brief note to the legal assistant of the Disciplinary Committee, asking whether there had been a decision on my complaint.
  • On January 23, I received a phone message from the legal assistant. She said that if the complaint was going to be dismissed, I would hear in a few weeks, but if the Committee had decided on further investigation, it would take longer before I heard anything.

For me, the complaint was a necessity. I had a grievance about the way I had been treated by the personal injury lawyers I’d hired to represent me when a neighbor’s badly maintained sidewalk broke a bone in my foot. Although the case eventually did settle, I felt and still feel that the complaint was proper and righteous.

I did not file it with any hope of “victory,” or vengeance. I filed it knowing well that the chances the lawyer would be censured in some way were remote.

But if in any way my complaint can prompt a change, no matter how slight, in the way some lawyers behave to their clients, I will be content. And if I have time, I might advance this cause to the Court Administration of the State of New York, the Guys Who Make The Rules. Perhaps they would consider strengthening their rules of professional conduct, as well as their rules about how lawyers should treat their clients — and how clients should behave to their lawyers (I’ve been hearing more bad stories).

But anyhow, for you who have filed complaints against your lawyers for ignoring you, for yelling at you, for behaving badly … calm down, wipe off the sweat. Go to movies, take long walks along a major body of water, read mysteries, cook mighty foods.

In short, if you file a complaint against a lawyer, fuggediboutit. The complaint itself is your win. And it’s a righteous win. Congratulations to all of us.


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