Office of Disciplinary Counsel

What You Should Know Before Filing A Complaint

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All attorneys admitted to practice in the District of Columbia are governed by the Rules of Professional Conduct adopted by the District of Columbia Court of Appeals. The purpose of the Rules is to set forth minimum ethical standards for the practice of law.

Inquiries concerning the professional conduct of an attorney admitted to practice in the District of Columbia are handled by the District of Columbia.

In order for an attorney to be found to have committed misconduct, it must be shown that his or her acts have violated the Rules of Professional Conduct. Charges of misconduct must be supported by the facts.

Examples of attorney practices clearly prohibited by the Rules include: 

  • Serious neglect of a client’s case or a client. Examples would be an attorney’s failure to file papers or documents with the court within time periods prescribed by law, or unreasonable failure to communicate with clients on a timely basis.

  • Failure to account to clients, as required by the Rules of Professional Conduct, concerning the status of funds or property being held by the attorney. 

  • Commingling, or failure to keep a client’s funds separate from the attorney's own funds. 

  • Use of a client’s funds by the attorney for his or her own purposes.
  • Failure to reduce to writing the scope of the representation and the basis or rate of the fee and expenses for which the client will be responsible. If the basis of the fee is a contingency, both attorney and client must sign a written contingent fee agreement. A contingent fee agreement is an agreement between an attorney and a client stating that the attorney’s fee depends in whole or in part on the lawyer’s success on behalf of a client.