In a previous post, we discussed that while we, as a society, hold attorneys in high regard owing to their education and training, we also expect them to handle our legal issues — from divorces and DUI charges to trusts and truck accidents — with the necessary diligence and dedication.
To that end, we also discussed how the Maryland Lawyers’ Rules of Professional Conduct outline a series of duties owed to clients, and how those clients who believe that their attorney has failed to live up to these duties may file a complaint with the Attorney Grievance Commission of Maryland.
Once a person decides to file a complaint with the AGC, the state agency tasked with regulating the professional conduct of attorneys, it will be reviewed by a staff attorney to determine whether there is a substantial basis to conclude that the rules of professional conduct were violated and that sufficient evidence exists to build a case.
It’s important for a person considering filing a complaint to know that while they have access to information about whether their attorney has previously been hit with a public sanction — reprimand, suspension, etc. — they do not have access to information about prior complaints filed against their attorney, even those that were dismissed.
Furthermore, chances are very good that the attorney will learn that they have filed a complaint against them.
As to whether he or she must continue providing representation, the reality is that the filing of the complaint with the AGC may seriously undermine the trust between the two parties, such that the attorney may seek to withdraw from representation (if legally permissible) and the person may need to retain the services of another legal professional.
In the event this transpires and a dispute subsequently arises as to the return of fees and/or documents, it may form the basis of another complaint with the AGC. However, it’s important to know that the agency has no power to order the return of these items and, as such, it may be necessary to consider a separate legal action.
Indeed, those with these sorts of concerns or who have suffered some manner of financial harm otherwise attributable to the negligent actions of their attorney should consider speaking with a skilled legal professional to learn more about pursuing a legal malpractice claim.