Q:

How do you report a bad lawyer?

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Serious complaints over the way a lawyer has handled a case are best referred to one's state bar association. This body regulates the professional conduct of lawyers and is responsible for investigating and, if necessary, prosecuting cases of misconduct. The State of Massachusetts Bar Association is typical in that it offers a public list of what constitutes misconduct worthy of a formal complaint.

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Professional misconduct can include neglect of a case, commingling of a client's funds with those of the law firm, misappropriation of a client's money, failure to properly account for a client's assets and entering into a professional relationship that constitutes a conflict of interest. These violations are serious, and sometimes result in the revocation of a lawyer's license to practice law in the state. For this reason, the Bar Association of Massachusetts recommends opening an official complaint proceeding and submitting extensive documentation of claims with the initial report of professional misconduct.

Copies of any relevant fee agreements, court papers and correspondence supporting the claim should be included. Without evidence that the lawyer in question has violated the Association's Code of Professional Conduct, disciplinary action cannot be imposed. Such disciplinary action can include admonishment, public reprimand, suspension and even disbarment.

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