What do I do if I have a complaint against a lawyer?
It's always a good idea to try to work things out with your lawyer informally. If that doesn't work, you may file a grievance with the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission. To file a grievance, you must complete and submit a Request for Investigation form. This form is found below or you can request a form be mailed to you by contacting the Disciplinary Commission office at (317) 232-1807.
You can submit this form in one of two ways:
- Open and complete the form, save it to your computer, then attach it along with any supporting documents in an email to DCGrievance@courts.in,gov. When emailing a fillable PDF form, save the form using the print as PDF option. If you do not know how to print as PDF, see this quick tutorial. Make sure you have the most current version of the Adobe Reader installed.
- Open and complete the form, print it and mail it to:
Indiana Supreme Court
251 N. Illinois Street, Suite 1650
Indianapolis, IN 46204
A valid complaint must include:
- Your name, current address, and contact information in the form of telephone and email (if you have one).
- The name of the attorney.
- The cause number related to the matter (or at least the county your case is in) if there is a court case.
- A short, detailed, written statement of the attorney’s specific conduct you believe was unethical.
- Your acknowledgment (by check mark) of the two items at the bottom of the form as well as a signature (electronic is acceptable – you may type out your name).
- Copies of any documents you have that support your complaint. If you do not have a scanner, please include a list of evidence you have that is available to investigators if needed.
What is not necessary to include in your complaint:
- A copy of the Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct.
- A copy of specific statutes and other legal research.
Who may file a grievance against a lawyer?
Anyone. Grievances are usually filed by the lawyer's clients, but they are also received from other lawyers, judges, or even opposing parties.
Does my lawyer still represent me after I file a grievance?
Yes, unless something is done to change the relationship. If you wish to end the representation, you must let your lawyer know that directly. Also, your lawyer may believe that he or she cannot adequately represent you after you file a grievance and may withdraw from representing you.
May I withdraw my grievance after I have filed it?
No. However, you should tell us if you have worked out your problems with your lawyer. That may have a bearing on how the matter is handled. It is not appropriate for the lawyer to give you anything of value or put pressure on you to ask that your grievance be withdrawn.
What complaints does the Disciplinary Commission handle?
We review any complaint against a lawyer. All lawyers must follow the Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct. The Disciplinary Commission enforces these rules. Matters that do not involve substantial claims of misconduct or that involve disputes over the amount of fees, unless the fees are clearly unreasonable, are not handled through the lawyer discipline system.
What things does the Commission not do?
Lawyers, like all people, make mistakes. A single mistake or error in judgement is not likely to be addressed by the Commission. If that mistake caused a loss to a client, the client may be able to recover that loss in a civil lawsuit against the lawyer. Moreover, mistakes made in criminal matters may be rectified in post-conviction relief proceedings.
The Disciplinary Commission does not recover your money or file criminal charges.
The purpose of a lawyer discipline case is to protect the interests of the public-at-large. It is not a substitute for bringing criminal charges against a lawyer for unlawful conduct (under the criminal statutes) or a civil action against a lawyer to collect damages or get money returned. If you believe that a lawyer has committed a crime, you should contact the authorities in your county in addition to filing a grievance. Be aware, however, that prosecutors have discretion over what cases to file.
If you believe you are entitled to the return of fees paid, and you are unable to reach an understanding with your lawyer, you may choose to resolve the dispute by court action, including a small claims action. To the extent you are including a fee dispute in your grievance, please include what efforts you have made to request the return of those fees and any response from the attorney with your grievance.
The Disciplinary Commission does not act as your attorney or give you legal advice.
The staff attorneys for the Disciplinary Commission represent the Commission's interests in enforcing the Rules of Professional Conduct. We are not permitted to act as your attorney or give you legal advice. It is important that you consult your own legal counsel if you believe that you have legal rights or interests that need to be protected.
Are there other resources available for obtaining compensation for lawyer wrongdoing?
The Indiana State Bar Association administers a Clients' Financial Assistance Fund that has funding available to compensate clients whose money has been improperly taken by a lawyer. You can get claim information here: https://www.inbar.org/page/cfaf.