The Common Law

How do I file a grievance against an attorney?

I want to file a complaint regarding the ethics (or lack thereof) of an attorney. I don't know how (phone calls, letters, etc.) or where to make my complaints.

Lawyers in Texas are held accountable to a set of rules called the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct. If you believe that an attorney has violated these rules or has otherwise engaged in unethical behavior, you may report this information to the State Bar of Texas (the organization that governs attorney conduct in Texas) in the form of a grievance. The grievance system against attorneys is designed to protect the public from unethical lawyers.

The first step in filing a grievance is to complete a grievance form (available at, click on the "client assistance & grievance" link) and mail it to the State Bar Chief Disciplinary Counsel's office. Allegations of misconduct by an attorney are very serious and are reviewed carefully. Alternatively, you can call the Grievance Hotline of the State Bar of Texas (800/932-1900) for more information on filing a grievance. When submitting your grievance form, you should also send copies (not originals) of any documentation – such as letters, pleadings, receipts – that may be helpful in understanding your grievance.

It is very important to know that signing the grievance form waives the attorney-client privilege that would otherwise keep discussions between you and your lawyer confidential. Waiver of the attorney-client privilege is necessary for the State Bar to review your grievance in its entirety.

Keep in mind that not every disagreement with an attorney involves professional misconduct. Just because an attorney loses a case or gives advice you disagree with does not mean the attorney has violated a disciplinary rule. For example, malpractice and attorney misconduct are not necessarily the same. You should consult with an attorney to help you decide if there are remedies other than filing a grievance. Visit the Texas State Bar Association's Web site to learn more about actions that may constitute filing a grievance.

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Marrs, Ellis & Hodge LLP,

The material in this column is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute, nor is it a substitute for, legal advice. For advice on your specific facts and circumstances, consult a licensed attorney. You may wish to contact the Lawyer Referral Service of Central Texas, a non-profit public service of the Austin Bar Association, at 512-472-8303 or

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