The State Bar of California’s principal mission is protecting the public, primarily through a rigorous licensing process, regulating attorneys, prosecuting complaints of lawyer misconduct and promoting ethical conduct. Unethical conduct is investigated by the State Bar's Office of Chief Trial Counsel and prosecuted in the independent State Bar Court.
The State Bar handles complaints lodged against attorneys through its Office of Chief Trial Counsel. Investigators look into complaints. If charges are warranted, prosecutors present the case before a judge, who recommends disciplinary action or dismissal.
If criminal conduct is suspected, the State Bar may also refer the matter to a law enforcement agency for investigation and potential prosecution.
Complaints against attorneys come from many sources, including clients, court officers, insurance companies, and other attorneys. Anyone can file a complaint, and the process is free. Find out how to file a complaint against an attorney.
File an attorney misconduct complaint or call the multilingual complaint hotline (800-843-9053).
The State Bar plays a central role in the development and enforcement of laws that govern attorney conduct. The guidelines for attorneys are embodied in the Rules of Professional Conduct, which cover everything from financial arrangements between attorneys and responsibilities to clients to the confidentiality of client records.
Attorneys must also adhere to California’s Business and Professions Code.
The State Bar provides ethics resources for lawyers looking for specific guidelines and an Ethics Hotline for attorneys faced with an ethical dilemma.
Find resources on ethics, classes, opinions and other information.
Not all complaints warrant an investigation or charges. But if State Bar investigators and attorneys find a basis for a complaint, and it is not resolved after discussions with the attorney, the case is referred to State Bar Court for a disciplinary hearing.
Substance abuse is a serious problem facing the legal profession. Attorneys may sign up for a confidential evaluation through the State Bar's Lawyer Assistance Program. Attorneys may also be required to participate in the Lawyer Assistance Program as the result of a discipline case.
Setting up a law practice can be complicated. Find resources on managing and operating a law office, how to set up a limited liability partnership and more.
California law requires attorneys who handle client funds to hold them in an interest-bearing bank account. In certain circumstances, the bar uses the interest on these accounts to benefit nonprofit legal services around the state.
Find out more about IOLTA accounts as well as guidelines for opening and maintaining them. We also have guidelines for banks and other financial institutions.