What to Expect if You are a Complainant
You can expect the following from the attorney discplinary system:
- A prompt reply from the Office of Disciplinary Counsel (ODC) acknowledging receipt of your complaint.
- A fair and impartial investigation. This means listening not only to your side of the story, but to the lawyer’s side as well. It also means that whatever independent investigation may be necessary in order to establish the facts will be conducted.
- As speedy a disposition as is possible of your complaint. Depending on the complexity of the matter, this can take from a month to a year or longer.
- To be notified of the final outcome of your complaint.
- An appeal right if you disagree with the dismissal of your complaint.
The Disciplinary Board and ODC will be genuinely concerned with your complaint. Each complaint is fully and carefully weighed. The presence of non-lawyers on the Disciplinary Board and hearing committees ensures that the attorney disciplinary system protects the interests of the community as a whole.
What NOT to Expect
The following are things you should NOT expect from the attorney disciplinary system:
- Assistance from either the Disciplinary Board or the Office of Disciplinary Counsel with respect to your legal matter.
- An order from either the Disciplinary Board or the Office of Disciplinary Counsel directing a lawyer to take action or refrain from taking action. Neither body has the authority to issue such an order.
- Legal advice from either the Disciplinary Board or Office of Disciplinary Counsel or a referral to a new lawyer to handle your legal claim.
- Reimbursement or other monetary compensation through the attorney disciplinary process.
Fee disputes are not normally handled within the attorney disciplinary system unless a fee appears on its face to be clearly excessive. Most fee disputes are instead referred to the Louisiana State Bar Association (a lawyer membership organization), which maintains a fee mediation/arbitration service. Many fee disputes result from a misunderstanding of the basis for the fee and the factors that went into the lawyer’s charge for services. Lawyers themselves can be at fault because of a failure to clearly explain to the client all aspects of the fee basis. Lawyers are at times reluctant to explain to their clients how much the services will cost, and clients are sometimes reluctant to question the lawyer on fees. This should not be the case. In any event, a fee misunderstanding does not usually constitute unethical conduct.