Grievances Against Lawyers
The information below is general in nature and is not intended to give specific advice for an individual legal problem. The Toledo Bar Association, as an organization, does not represent you and cannot provide you with legal advice. If you need legal advice or representation, please contact the Lawyer Referral Service of the TBA.
What Rules Do Ohio Lawyers Have to Follow?
All Ohio lawyers take an oath to effectively represent their clients without compromise and conflict. The Supreme Court of Ohio regulates the conduct of lawyers through the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct. These Rules include ethical standards that each lawyer must follow.
For example, an Ohio lawyer is not allowed to:
- knowingly mislead or lie to a client or a court
- reveal a client's confidence or secret without the client's permission
- misuse or take money or property that belongs to a client
- settle, file or dismiss a case without the client's permission
- repeatedly neglect a client's legal problems after the lawyer has agreed to represent the client
May I File a Grievance?
If you have a grievance against a lawyer for violating a rule of professional conduct, you may report it for investigation. When you file a written grievance, an investigation is made to determine if the lawyer did or did not violate the ethical rules.
Where Do I File a Grievance?
The Ohio Supreme Court has certified the Grievance Committee of the Toledo Bar Association, as well as two statewide offices and several other local bar associations, to investigate and prosecute ethical misconduct by lawyers. A grievance against a Lucas County lawyer or a lawyer involved in a case in Lucas County must be in writing and must be filed with either one of the two following organizations:
Toledo Bar Association
Attn: Grievance Committee
311 N. Superior Street
Toledo, OH 43604-1454
Office of Disciplinary Counsel
250 Civic Center Drive, Ste. 325
Columbus, Ohio 43215-7411
Tel. 614-461-0256, 800-589-5256
Should I File More Than One Grievance?
A grievance should be filed with only one office. A grievance against a Lucas County lawyer should be filed with either the Toledo Bar Association Grievance Committee or the Office of Disciplinary Counsel, but not with both.
What Should My Grievance Include?
Your grievance should include your name, address, and telephone number, the name of the lawyer involved, and a brief statement (usually a page or less) as to what the lawyer did or failed to do that forms the basis of your grievance. A typewritten grievance is preferred. You should attach copies of relevant documents. Click here for the TBA Grievance Form.
What is the TBA Grievance Process?
If you file with the Toledo Bar Association, your grievance will be studied by a screening committee. If the screening committee determines there is substantial, credible evidence of a possible ethical violation, a member of the Grievance Investigation Committee will gather the facts about your grievance, both from you and the lawyer, and prepare a report, which will be sent to the Grievance Committee. The Grievance Committee will decide whether the lawyer violated the ethical rules. If the Committee finds enough evidence of wrongdoing, it will draft a proposed complaint, submit it to the lawyer, and offer the lawyer an opportunity to attend a hearing before the Committee to show cause why the complaint should not be filed with the Board of Professional Conduct. Following the show cause hearing the Grievance Committee will vote whether to dismiss the proposed complaint or to file it with the Board of Professional Conduct charging misconduct against the lawyer. The Board of Professional Conduct is an independent board appointed by the Supreme Court of Ohio. If the Grievance Committee files a formal complaint, and if the Board accepts and certifies the complaint, the Board will then hold a hearing, and you may be required to testify. If the Board, following the hearing, finds that the lawyer has committed misconduct, it will make a recommendation to the Supreme Court of Ohio. The Supreme Court will make the final determination as to whether the lawyer should be disciplined and whether to limit or prohibit the lawyer from the practice of law.
What Is Not Covered by the Grievance Process?
Disputes between you and your lawyer over fees are not ordinarily a basis for a grievance. If the Toledo Bar Association Grievance Committee determines that the grievance against a lawyer is primarily a dispute over fees, it may refer the matter to the Fee Arbitration Committee for further proceedings.
If you believe that you did not receive a proper result in a civil or criminal case, the grievance process will not affect the outcome of your case. The lawyers investigating your grievance cannot represent you or appeal the outcome of any case for you or recover money for you. The recovery of money damages or losses is not the purpose of the grievance procedure. If you disagree with your lawyer on matters of evidence, tactics, timing, or judgment on how to handle a case, these are not generally ethical issues. A lawyer may ethically use his professional judgment in such matters.
How Do I Recover Money, Damages, or Losses?
Filing a grievance against a lawyer will not result in a recovery of the money you lost. If you suffer money damages or out of pocket losses as a result of your lawyer's mistakes or negligence, you may have a legal malpractice claim. Malpractice lawsuits require a client to sue the lawyer within one year. If you wish to file a malpractice claim against a lawyer, you should immediately consult with a different lawyer about the one year limitation and the damages you believe you have suffered.
Can I Recover Money if I Don't Sue My Lawyer?
If your lawyer has illegally taken or misused your money or property, you may be eligible to recover the loss caused by the dishonest conduct through filing a claim with the Client's Security Fund of Ohio, 175 South Third Street, Suite 285, Columbus, OH 43215-5134, telephone 1-800-231-1680 or (614) 221-0562. You do not need the assistance of a lawyer to file this claim. You may file it yourself.