The State Bar plays a pivotal role in developing and enforcing professional guidelines that attorneys must follow. Our job is to actively investigate and prosecute consumer complaints against lawyers and those who pretend to be attorneys.
The guidelines for attorneys are embodied in the Rules of Professional Conduct. Attorneys must also adhere to other rules and laws, which cover everything from attorneys' responsibilities to clients to the confidentiality of client records.
The State Bar fields questions from the public regarding attorneys via a multilingual intake line (800-843-9053) and provides the public with the resources they need to file a complaint against an attorney.
Anyone can file a complaint. You do not have to be a U.S. citizen and the process is free. Complaints against attorneys come from many sources, including clients, court officers, insurance companies and even other attorneys.
The State Bar investigates complaints of attorney misconduct, and if there is a basis for prosecution, files them in State Bar Court.
If an attorney is recommended for suspension or disbarment by State Bar Court, that discipline is ultimately forwarded to the Supreme Court for final approval. Disciplinary records are listed in an attorney's public profile on the State Bar website as a warning to other potential clients.
If criminal conduct is suspected, the State Bar may also refer the matter to a law enforcement agency for investigation and potential prosecution.
Across the state people posing as attorneys take advantage of the public. This is called the unauthorized practice of law, and has a significant impact on immigrants and other vulnerable communities. The State Bar investigates complaints about immigration consultants and others who advertise a legal expertise, but lack a State Bar license or other proper authorization. The State Bar's unauthorized practice of law unit conducts thorough investigations and works in close coordination with law enforcement.
The State Bar administers California Bar Examinations and houses other Office of Admissions programs. More about Admissions.