Once you’ve decided to take your grievance about an attorney to the State Bar, you need to file an attorney complaint form.
The State Bar’s Office of Chief Trial Counsel handles complaints about unethical attorney conduct from several different sources, including clients, family and friends of clients, courts, opposing counsel, members of the public or other third parties, and anonymous submissions.
With the exception of anonymous complaints, the State Bar notifies the complainant of receipt of the complaint. An experienced State Bar attorney will review the complaint to determine if the facts are sufficient to show that an ethical violation occurred. Additional documents from the complainant may be needed to complete this evaluation.
If the review determines that the alleged facts establish a violation, the matter will be investigated. Complaints and investigations are confidential.
If, after investigation, the evidence does not establish a serious violation, the State Bar may issue a warning to the lawyer. The State Bar could also issue an Agreement in Lieu of Discipline (ALD), in which the lawyer agrees to take corrective action. Neither a warning nor an ALD are considered discipline.
If the State Bar decides to file charges against the lawyer, the case will go to the independent State Bar Court and will become public, with notice on the attorney's online profile. A judge can dismiss the case, issue a reproval, or recommend suspension or disbarment.The California Supreme Court has the final say in all discipline cases involving suspension or disbarment.
If you lost money or property because a lawyer did something dishonest, you may be able to recover it by filing an application with the Client Security Fund. But first you need to file a complaint against the attorney.
If criminal conduct is suspected, the State Bar may also refer the matter to a law enforcement agency for investigation and potential prosecution.