A License to Steal?

Just as some businesses really focus on their clients, and others do not, some Attorney’s do a great job representing their clients and others prefer to use their “license to steal”.  Businesses that provide quality services should flourish, those that do not should be closed. This rule should also apply to the legal community.

Several clients have told us about retaining lawyers to help them with their loan modification, and after 4-6 months pass, still nothing has been done. When the bank is called to find out what’s happening, there is no record of any firm contacting the bank. Other clients report being charged for reading and sending emails or listening to a voice mail.

Below you will find details on filing a complaint against an Attorney that has either not provided you a legitimate service, or has simply overcharged for it. I also recommend filing a Rip Off Report as this often will show up in web searches.

Information about disputes with lawyers

All Arizona attorneys must follow the Rules of the Arizona Supreme Court, including the Rules of Professional Conduct contained in Rule 42. The Attorney/Consumer Assistance Program (A/CAP) acts as a central intake office for all inquiries concerning the conduct of attorneys in Arizona. At times,A/CAP can help resolve some disputes with attorneys before the filing of charges. Other, more serious matters are referred for investigation.

Here are a few examples of the kinds of conduct the State Bar has authority to investigate:

1. A lawyer does not do what he or she has promised or does not do it in a timely way.

2. A lawyer continually fails to respond to inquiries about the case, to tell you about court dates or to appear in court.

3. A lawyer lies or advises you or someone else to lie in the course of a case.

4. A lawyer represents you as well as another person whose interests conflict with yours.

5. A lawyer will not give you money he or she is holding on your behalf or will not give you a full written accounting.

You should also be aware of what the State Bar cannot do.

1. The State Bar cannot investigate complaints of malpractice or resolve legal issues.
2. The State Bar does not investigate complaints against judges. Complaints against Arizona judges should be referred to the Commission on Judicial Conduct, Phoenix, AZ, 602-542-5200.
3. The State Bar does not investigate complaints against lawyers who are not licensed in Arizona unless they are practicing law in Arizona. Complaints usually must be filed in the state where the lawyer is admitted.
4. The State Bar informally investigates complaints about non-lawyers and then refers appropriate complaints to other agencies for prosecution.
5. To begin the discipline process, charges must be sent to the State Bar in writing.
A client has the right to end his/her relationship with a lawyer for any reason. However, not every reason is grounds for the Bar to discipline the attorney. Lawyers sometimes make mistakes that upset clients, but that do not constitute ethical violations. In addition, if there is a dispute over legal fees, the parties are encouraged to use the State Bar Fee Arbitration Program, which provides a low cost method for resolving fee disputes. The cost of legal services is generally left to an agreement between the lawyer and the client. Starting December 1, 2003, with very few exceptions, a written fee agreement will be required between a lawyer and client.
The State Bar may not give legal advice; however, they do ask that ethical violations be brought to their attention. What happens after a bar charge is filed?
If you file charges against a lawyer, State Bar counsel will review it to determine whether an investigation is appropriate. If an investigation is appropriate, a copy of what you have submitted will be sent to the lawyer, who will be asked to submit a written response to your charges. In most cases, you will receive a copy of that response and be given a chance to send additional information.
If your information does not meet the threshold for an investigation, you will be notified of that fact. A copy of the charges will be sent to the lawyer for informational purposes. If, after investigation, the State Bar determines that there is enough information to believe that the lawyer violated the ethics rules and there is clear and convincing evidence to show the violation, formal disciplinary charges may be filed against the lawyer. Under those circumstances, a hearing may be held, and you may be required to appear as a witness.
Because of the volume of complaints received, the State Bar relies on written submissions.
If you have any questions about an Arizona attorney’s conduct, contact the State Bar of Arizona, 4201 N. 24th Street, Suite 200, Phoenix, AZ, 85016, 602-340-7280. Other states have a Bar representation also and can be found with a simple search.
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