How to Properly Respond to a California State Bar Complaint

Jan 22, 2019 | Blog

Being on the receiving end of a California State Bar complaint is angering, scary, and intimidating. Yet, as a lawyer, it’s important that you know hot to properly respond. Failure to use a proper response can make defending the allegations made against you even more difficult. In this post, you’re going to learn about how to properly respond if you receive a California State Bar complaint.


Before You Respond

Before you prepare your response, it’s vital to read the entire ethics complaint filed against you. Think about how you’d act if this document were filed against one of your clients. You’d take the time to read the entire thing before you decided on a course of action.

As a lawyer, it is important that you recognize exactly what the California State Bar complaint alleges. The knee-jerk reaction is that the complaint must have been filed by a client (or former client) who was upset by something you said, did, or the results of their matter. More often than not, that’s not the cause.

So, again, first read the entire complaint.

Related: Why and How to Rectify a Broken Client Relationship

Next, contact your malpractice insurance provider. They should know about the ethics complaint. Look over your policy. Do you have coverage that will determine which attorney you hire if the matter becomes too much for you to handle on your own?

Get into an Objective State of Mind

As you prepare to respond to a California State Bar complaint, it’s important that you’re in an objective state of mind. This is, by far, the most difficult part of drafting your response. You must distance yourself from the emotions you’re experiencing. You do not want to shoot from the hip and fire off an overly-aggressive, angry reply. That sort of response could very well be used against you. So, do whatever it is that you do that gets you focused and objective.

Related: How to Help Your Family Deal with Your Malpractice Suit [PODCAST]

Review the Rules Related to the Allegations Made Against You

Reviewing the rules related to the allegations will help you better understand what’s happening. Then, you need to make sure you understand the entire context. The Playbook is a vital resource that can help you locate the rules related to the allegations as well as explain the context. It can also help you understand what you’re facing all the way from the investigation process through the appeals process.

Talk with an Ethics Defense Lawyer Even If You Plan to Represent Yourself

At this stage of planning your response, you may be thinking about representing yourself. In many instances, that’s totally fine. However, there are a lot of factors that you should consider before you decide to do that. The best way to do this is to talk with an ethics defense lawyer. Zavieh Law provides both partial and full scope representation for lawyers fighting a California State Bar complaint. We’d be happy to talk with you about the important factors that should impact how you respond and whether you need a lawyer.

Draft Your Response

Always keep your response deadline in mind. This will help you plan your response. If necessary, ask for extra time. Keep the emotion out of your response. Only address what needs to be addressed. Zavieh Law can help you plan a proper response that gives you the best possible opportunity to defend against the allegations.

Related: Privilege Waiver: How Does It Affect a State Bar Complaint?

Here When You Need Us

If you’re under investigation by the California State Bar, Zavieh Law is here to help. You can schedule your consultation online.

If you receive an ethics complaint from the California Bar and you’re not sure where you should start, check out The State Bar Playbook. This is Megan’s interactive and easy to use guide (and community!) that will help guide you through the process from receipt of the complaint all the way through the appeals process!

State Bar Court practice guide
A practice guide for self-represented lawyers in State Bar Court