Faced With An Ethics Complaint?

If a complaint alleging violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct of the State Bar of California has been filed against you, the best thing you can do for yourself is to hire experienced counsel to represent you from the very earliest stage of the disciplinary proceeding. For many different reasons, an advocate without a personal stake in the matter has a much better chance of obtaining a favorable result at an early stage than a self-represented attorney.

Your first response to discipline or an ethics complaint is usually the most critical point of a California attorney discipline case.

We Understand The Disciplinary Process

When a dissatisfied client, vindictive opponent, or even a judge initiates ethics complaint proceedings against a California attorney, the matter is initially reviewed and investigated by a complaint analyst, employed in the Office of the Chief Trial Counsel of the State Bar of California, who makes an initial determination of the seriousness of the charges and whether a full investigation should be initiated. Many attorney discipline matters stop at this point. You might get a warning letter recommending nondisciplinary corrective action.

Protect Yourself: Hire An Attorney

But you might instead get a letter from a staff attorney advising you of the intent to file formal disciplinary charges, or asking for your further response to the complaint. At this point, you need an experienced discipline defense attorney for the same reasons that you wouldn't represent yourself in a criminal matter.

Your lawyer can protect you from damaging or conflicting responsive statements during the investigative phase. Your attorney can insulate you from the credibility problems that often emerge when the defending lawyer tries to explain or elaborate on the matter under investigation.


California State Bar Court cases are full-dress adversary proceedings with all the civil rules of discovery and evidence applied, albeit in a somewhat modified manner. They can address not only ethics complaints under the Rules of Professional Conduct, but also such matters as criminal convictions, trust account problems, or drug and alcohol dependency issues. Federal courts also have been referring disciplinary matters to the State Bar Court in criminal, immigration, and other fields under both the California rules and the ABA Model Rules.

For effective assistance in the San Francisco area or throughout California, call our firm at 415-957-1818 or email us online.