Ethics Complaints and the Texas Attorney Disciplinary Board

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Or should you sue? Let the legal malpractice attorneys at Sears Crawford help you decide.

Thinking about filing an ethics complaint to the state attorney disciplinary board? You should absolutely seek justice after falling victim to an attorney’s unethical behavior — which can either mean filing a grievance with the State Bar of Texas or hiring an attorney, like Ross Sears II, to help you sue your previous lawyer.

At Sears Crawford, we sue lawyers because of our commitment to our clients and our profession. An attorney has a duty to their client and we believe in upholding it. Call Ross Sears II at Sears Crawford today at (713) 223-3333 to discuss your case today.

How do I know if my lawyer violated the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct?

What is the most common reason for an attorney to be disciplined? The Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct (TDRPC) outline the high standards of conduct to which attorneys are held. An attorney violating the TDRPC does not necessarily mean that they have committed malpractice, but it may be worth filing a grievance against them. One of the most common complaints by a client against their attorney is failure to communicate with the client. This is a common complaint that can often give rise to a grievance, but likely won’t result in a legal malpractice lawsuit, because it usually doesn’t result in monetary damages to the client.

What types of attorney misconduct constitute malpractice, that would justify suing your attorney? Some of the more common examples of malpractice include:

Negligence occurs when an attorney fails to do something that a reasonable attorney would have done or does something they would not have done, in a similar situation. Things like missed deadlines, misapplying the law, or taking on cases outside of their expertise are considered negligence.
Failure to obtain client consent applies to attorneys agreeing to settlements or resolutions without disclosing or seeking approval from their clients.
Breach of fiduciary duty occurs when your lawyer does not act in your best interest. Conflicts of interest, self-serving decisions, or withholding information from a client are all breaches of a lawyer’s fiduciary duty.

If you have reason to believe that your attorney was negligent or breached their fiduciary duty, you may have a malpractice case against them. We know that hiring another attorney is likely the last thing that you want to do, but at Sears Crawford, we sue lawyers to make things right.

Call us today to discuss whether or not you have a case, and keep reading to learn more about ethics complaints and the attorney disciplinary board.


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Should I file a grievance or sue?

Before we answer your questions about filing ethics complaints with the attorney discipline board in Texas, we should address the question of whether or not you should be calling a legal malpractice attorney in Houston instead of, or in addition to, filing a complaint with the State Bar.

If the negligence or breach of duty of a previous attorney has caused you monetary harm, it is not always recommended that you leave your fate in the hands of the Texas Disciplinary Board. The system is imperfect, and there is no guarantee that you will see your case given the time and attention that it would be given by a good Texas legal malpractice attorney.

At Sears Crawford, we’ve seen and heard everything. We know how many reasons to file a lawsuit against an attorney you might have, and chances are that we’ve represented someone in a similar situation. If you believe that your previous attorney committed malpractice and caused you to suffer monetary damages, give the Ross Sears II at Sears Crawford a call and tell us all about it.

How do I file an ethics complaint?

You can file a grievance through the Texas State Bar’s online portal. Start by filling out a grievance form and attaching copies of all supporting documents to your claim. Supporting documents can be emails, letters, court documents, or any other material recording communication between you and your lawyer or actions that your lawyer took or didn’t take.

It is important to note that filing a grievance form against someone who is or has previously represented you legally will nullify the attorney-client privilege that kept matters between you and your lawyer confidential, as the State Bar of Texas wouldn’t be able to review the case otherwise.

If you do choose to file a grievance, don’t wait too long. In Texas, there is generally a four-year statute of limitations on filing a grievance against your attorney. The clock starts on this statute of limitations at the time of the alleged misconduct, although there may be allowances for an extension if you had no way of knowing about their conduct until later.

Who investigates attorneys in Texas?

The State Bar of Texas carries out investigations into ethics complaints. First, your grievance will be ruled on by the Disciplinary Committee to decide whether or not it will be filed as a formal complaint. Once your claim has become a formal complaint the attorney in question is notified and told that they must comply with the Chief Disciplinary Counsel of Texas in a formal investigation. If the investigation finds that the alleged misconduct did occur, the case can proceed to litigation. The State Bar website can help walk you through the process and the various steps required to file and succeed with such a complaint. 

This multi-step process doesn’t always go smoothly — or quickly — which is a major reason why finding a lawyer who can represent you and sue your lawyer for malpractice is often the preferred route.

How do you find out if an attorney has been disciplined in Texas?

Looking to hire an attorney in Texas and wondering if they have already been disciplined? Through the Texas Bar’s Find a Lawyer page you can find any lawyer and their disciplinary history.

You should also make sure that your attorney carries legal malpractice insurance. Legal malpractice insurance exists to protect the client’s interests, and an attorney not carrying it should be a giant red flag waving in your face. If you find out that your attorney doesn’t carry legal malpractice insurance, run — don’t walk — to another attorney’s office.

Whether you pursue an ethics complaint or a malpractice lawsuit, the lawyers at Sears Crawford are here to help

When an ethics complaint with the attorney disciplinary board can’t help, an experienced legal malpractice attorney can. Neither the State Bar of Texas nor any of the disciplinary agencies are intended to address malpractice claims. Generally, they will not even advise you on whether or not you have a claim, or whether you should file a lawsuit against your attorney.

Filing a grievance can be a useful tool, but it doesn’t compare to having an experienced legal malpractice lawyer’s number on hand. Ross Sears II is a Board Certified attorney who has been suing negligent lawyers in Texas for more than 30 years. If you or a loved one has been hurt by the actions of your previous attorney, and want to talk to an attorney you can trust, call Ross Sears II at Sears Crawford today at (713) 223-3333 or contact us online for a free consultation.