Filing a Complaint
How do I file a complaint?
Complaints must be submitted in writing to the Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel by use of a downloaded complaint form or by letter. You may download and print the blank form or you may complete the “Fill-in Form” here and then print it or email your complaint to the Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel at the following email address: email@example.com.
Complaints should provide the full name and address of the attorney, the nature of the legal matter, the caption of any court case involved in the representation, the name of the court where any case is pending, a detailed, factual statement of what occurred including specific
complaint(s) about the attorney’s conduct, and the complainant’s name, address and telephone number.
If you are complaining about the conduct or more than one attorney, you should submit separate complaint forms or write out the information on separate sheets of paper.
What documentation is necessary?
Complainants should provide as much relevant documentation as possible that will be helpful in understanding the complaint. The following have been found to be helpful in evaluating complaints, although not everything listed will be available in all cases:
- A complete history of the complainant’s dealings with the lawyer, including dates and purposes for which the lawyer was retained;
- Copies of fee or retainer agreements;
- A listing of meetings or conferences with the lawyer, including dates where possible, that are relevant to the complaint;
- Copies of letters, faxes, emails and other correspondence that relate to the subject of the complaint;
- Copies of pleadings and legal documents that are relevant to the subject of the complaint;
- Copies of canceled checks or receipts for any payments made to the lawyer.
What Should I Report?
Many complaints about lawyers can be resolved by better communication between lawyers and their clients. If that fails, clients (and others) may submit complaints about any violations of the Missouri Rules of Professional Conduct, including but not limited to:
- Inadequate communication;
- Neglect of legal matters;
- Conflicts of interest;
- Misuse of client funds;
- Improper advertising;
- Breach of confidentiality;
- Improper communication with opposing parties represented by another attorney; assisting a non-lawyer in the unauthorized practice of law.
What does it cost to file a complaint?
There is no cost, but the complainant’s assistance and cooperation are necessary if an investigative file is opened.
Must I be represented in order to file a complaint?
Can I file a complaint against a judge?
Yes, but with another agency – the Commission on Retirement, Removal and Discipline of Judges, 2190 South Mason Road, St. Louis, Missouri 63131, telephone (314) 966-1007.
How is my complaint processed?
Your complaint will be referred to a Staff Counsel at the OCDC, who will evaluate whether there are any issues which could form the basis for a disciplinary investigation. Complaints are reviewed and processed by Staff Counsel in the order in which they are received. The OCDC attempts to respond to each complaint in writing within approximately four weeks of its receipt.
If a file is opened, the matter is either investigated by the OCDC office in Jefferson City or referred to one of the regional disciplinary offices located in Kansas City, St. Louis or Springfield. The attorney complained about is typically notified of the complaint and given an opportunity to respond to the allegations contained in the complaint. If, and when a response is received, the complainant will generally be given an opportunity to review and reply to the attorney’s response. After any additional investigation deemed necessary and appropriate is completed, a determination is made as to whether a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct has occurred.
Will my lawyer find out about my complaint?
If the OCDC determines that your complaint sets forth possible violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct, the procedural rules governing the disciplinary process require that we notify the lawyer of the complaint, including the name and address of the person making the complaint, and give the lawyer an opportunity to respond.
If the OCDC determines that the complaint is not one which is expected to lead to discipline, for any number of reasons, it will not further investigate and may choose not to contact the lawyer regarding the complaint.
Can I file a complaint against a law firm?
No, the OCDC can investigate individual attorneys, but cannot investigate complaints against a law firm. When filing an ethics complaint, it is important to identify the individual attorney or attorneys within a law firm who had responsibility for, or worked on, the legal matter and whose conduct is believed to have violated the Rules of Professional Conduct.
Can I withdraw my complaint?
You may withdraw your participation in the complaint, but the disciplinary system is required by the Rules to complete its investigation. If you have resolved your differences with your attorney, however, you should notify the OCDC because that fact may affect the evaluation of the complaint.
What is the Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel unable to do for you?
- The OCDC cannot represent you in your court case.
- The OCDC cannot give you legal advice. If you have questions relating to your court case, you should consult with a private attorney for advice and assistance.
- The OCDC can not discuss your complaint with you over the telephone and then give an opinion as to whether or not an ethical violation has occurred.
- The OCDC cannot recover money on your behalf or recover attorney’s fees for you. If your complaint is about the amount of attorney’s fees you were charged, you may contact one of the Fee Dispute Resolution Committees operated by The Missouri Bar.
The OCDC cannot refer you to an attorney. You may check your telephone directory to find a lawyer referral service in your area. Investigations and other actions taken by the Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel are not intended to have an effect on your court case.