Why file a complaint against your lawyer?

   “Again nothing done!” says Richard.  “Nothing, nothing done!”
    “Don’t say nothing done, sir,” returns the placid Vholes.  “That is scarcely fair, sir, scarcely fair!”
    “Why, what is done?” says Richard, turning gloomily upon him.
    “That may not be the whole question,” returns Vholes. “The question may branch off into what is doing, what is doing?”
    “And what is doing?” asks the moody client.
    Vholes, sitting with his arms on his desk, quietly bringing the tips of his five right fingers to meet the tips of his five left fingers, and quietly separating them again, and fixedly and slowly looking at his client, replies:
    “A good deal is doing, sir.  We have put our shoulders to the wheel, Mr. Carstone, and the wheel is going round.”Charles Dickens, Bleak House

Yes, Dickens got this precisely right, in all its complexity. When we face our lawyers, how do we find the language to carve into their language, to say straightforwardly, “I don’t think you’re doing what you could be doing for me.”

“Why, what is done?” says gloomy Richard Carstone. So how do we determine whether our lawyers, despite all their orotundity, have left something undone?

Here’s how. Go again to the right hand column on this page. Under Sites of Interest, find and click on the Rules of Professional Conduct for Attorneys. As I told you previously, it’s only 43 pages long and is written in such a way that actual human beings, i.e., you and I, will find it comprehensible. In order to file a complaint against a lawyer, you will need to pull from these Rules the specific rules you believe your lawyer broke.

I learned how and why to do this a few years ago when I prepared a complaint against a lawyer whom I came to call Shmucksky. Shmucksky wasn’t my lawyer and in fact he really wasn’t anybody’s lawyer; he was functioning in an entirely different advisory capacity when I was summoned to meet him.

In the course of offering his unsolicited and utterly self-serving “advice,” Shmucksky said a couple of legally stupid things and made a threat, a false and empty threat against someone I loved.

Dumb. When I came home in a towering fury, I began digging up all the information I needed to prepare a complaint against this guy. In the end, I was talked out of filing it by another, very nice lawyer, whose advice was wise — even if it didn’t dampen my righteous anger. But before I was talked out of it, I prepared the entire complaint filing. And aren’t we all lucky I did, because now we can all benefit from my truncated experience.

Before I tell you precisely what to do, though, let me relate the Why. Because the Why itself will soothe you a bit.

It was a lawyer who first told me what happens after you file a complaint against a lawyer — which you file in the state court division in which the lawyer is registered to practice.  That court division assigns the complaint to an investigatory committee. Which investigates. Here are possible committee actions I just cut and pasted from the Unified Court System website:

  • Refer the complaint to a special Mediation Program, in which a trained volunteer mediator meets with the lawyer and the client to assist them in resolving the complaint privately;
  • Issue a private sanction to the lawyer (a “Letter or Admonition”);
  • Recommend to the Court that the lawyer receive a public condemnation (“censure”);
  • Recommend to the Court that the lawyer’s right to practice law be taken away for a specified period of time (“suspension”); or
  • Recommend to the Court that the lawyer’s license to practice law be taken away (“disbarment”).

From a lawyer’s point of view, the worst that can happen is disbarment; the best is nothing much. But what will definitely happen, as my lawyer friend explained to me is, in responding to the complaint, in digging out documents and records in support of his defense (he has now become the defendant), the lawyer’s office will be turned upside down.

In short, it’ll make a real mess of things for him. For you, the complainant, it’s a relatively simple process, just as long as you’ve kept decent files and records. Which I’ve been telling you to do for years now. And of course you’ve obeyed me, your Plaintiff Dominatrix, right?

(If you need a refresher, wander over to the top right of this page, find Chapters of the Story, click below on Select Category and summon up D. Making and keeping a record.)



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