Attorney Ethics Frequently Asked Questions
What rules do Ohio lawyers and judges have to follow?
All Ohio lawyers take an oath to effectively represent their clients without compromise and conflict. The Supreme Court of Ohio regulates the conduct of lawyers and judges through the "Rules of Professional Conduct" and a "Code of Judicial Conduct." Ohio lawyers and judges must obey their oaths of office and the Rules. These Rules include ethical standards that each lawyer must follow.
For example, an Ohio lawyer may not:
- knowingly mislead or lie to a client or a court;
- reveal a client's confidence or secret without the client's permission;
- misuse or take money or property that belongs to a client;
- settle a case without the client's permission;
May I file a grievance?
If you have an ethics grievance against an Ohio lawyer or judge for violating a Rule of Professional Conduct or the Code of Judicial Conduct, you may report it for investigation. After you file a written grievance, an investigation is conducted to determine if the attorney or judge violated the ethical rules.
Where do I file a grievance against a lawyer or judge?
An ethics grievance against a lawyer or a judge must be in writing and may be filed with one of the following organizations:
Office of Disciplinary Counsel
Grievances statewide against attorneys and judges
250 Civic Center Drive, Suite 325, Columbus, OH 43215
614/461.0256 or 800/589.5256
Ohio State Bar Association
Grievances against judges only
1700 Lake Shore Drive, P.O. Box 16562, Columbus, OH 43216
614/487.2050 or 800/282.6556
Columbus Bar Association
*For the address and telephone number of an approved local bar association near you, please contact the Board of Professional Conduct.
Grievances against attorneys practicing in Franklin County*
175 S. Third St., Suite 1100, Columbus, OH 43215
The Board of Professional Conduct
Supreme Court of Ohio, 65 S. Front St., 5th Floor, Columbus, OH 43215
Should I file a grievance in more than one office?
A grievance should be filed with only one office. For grievances against lawyers you may file with either the Office of Disciplinary Counsel, or an approved local bar association such as the Columbus Bar Association. For grievances against judges, you may file with the Office of Disciplinary Counsel or the Ohio State Bar Association.
What can I expect?
The investigating Committee or Disciplinary Counsel will gather information about your grievance and decide whether there is evidence that the lawyer or judge violated the ethical rules. If the Committee or Disciplinary Counsel finds enough evidence of wrongdoing, it will file a formal Complaint charging misconduct against the lawyer or judge. The Board of Professional Conduct, which is an independent board appointed by the Supreme Court of Ohio, will then hold a public hearing, and you may be required to testify. In some cases, however, a matter may be submitted on stipulations or an Agreement to Discipline by Consent. Based on the result of this hearing, the Supreme Court of Ohio may take disciplinary action against the lawyer or judge to protect the public by limiting or prohibiting the lawyer from practicing law or serving as a judge. If there is not enough evidence of misconduct after the hearing is held, the charges will be dismissed by the Board.
What is not covered by the grievance?
Ordinarily, disputes between you and your lawyer over fees are not a basis for an ethics grievance. The Columbus Bar Association and other Certified Grievance Committees have Fee Arbitration Programs that may resolve such disputes.
If you have a pending court case and you file a grievance, the grievance process will not have any effect on the court case. The grievance process is completely separate from the court process. You will still need to take all necessary actions in the court to preserve your rights in the legal proceeding. The lawyers investigating or prosecuting a grievance filed by you cannot represent or advise you regarding any aspect of the court matter or recover money damages for you. The grievance process is designed solely to determine if an attorney should be sanctioned for ethics violations.
How do I recover money damages or losses?
Filing an ethics grievance against a lawyer will not result in a recovery of any money. If you suffer monetary damages or out-of-pocket losses as a result of your lawyer's mistakes or negligence, you may have a legal malpractice claim.
Malpractice lawsuits require a client to sue the lawyer generally within one year of the discovery of the malpractice. If you wish to file a malpractice claim against a lawyer, you should immediately consult with a different lawyer about the one year limitation and the damages you believe you have suffered.
Can I recover money if I don't sue my lawyer?
If your lawyer has illegally taken or misused your money or property, you may be eligible to recover the loss caused by the dishonest conduct by filing a claim with the Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection, 65 S. Front St., 5th Floor, Columbus, OH 43215, telephone 1-800-231-1680 or 614-387-9390. You do not need the assistance of a lawyer to file this claim; you may file it yourself.
This information is general in nature and not intended to give specific advice for an individual legal problem. Please contact one of the organizations listed if you have a complaint about a judge, lawyer, or the legal services you received.