Complaints against lawyers decline

first_img Complaints against lawyers decline Since the Attorney Consumer Assistance Program was launched in 2001 The Bar’s Attorney Consumer Assistance Program is apparently reducing the number of grievances filed with the Bar while also pleasing clients and attorneys who have used the program.Shannon Fleming, ACAP’s lead attorney, reported to the Board of Governors in January that written complaints to the Bar’s grievance system have dropped 8 percent since ACAP began in 2001.The program gets around 30,000 calls a year, although many of those are requests for additional services, misdirected, or have general questions about the Bar, she said.“ACAP benefits our Bar members and the public,” Fleming said.For Bar members, there’s no discipline record, and they do not have to respond to a written complaint if ACAP resolves the client concerns. Additionally, the Bar is not perceived as the “bad guy” by the member.“The public benefits because it provides a resolution with client involvement and it resolves issues that discipline cannot, such as personality conflicts and fee disputes,” she said. “The Bar benefits because it resolves issues without resorting to the discipline system; it helps facilitate a better relationship with members; it promotes goodwill to the public; and resources can be allocated to the handling of more serious complaints.”Lawyers like the program “and they wish the Bar would have had this a long time ago,” Fleming said.Clients are satisfied if they get a quick resolution of their problem, she said, but less happy if the program can’t help them.Consumers or clients access the program by calling toll-free (866) 352-0707, where they talk to a program assistant who gathers the basic information. If the matter falls within ACAP guidelines, the case is forwarded to a Bar attorney who contacts the responding attorney to discuss the client’s call.“The number one complaint is lack of communication. If people would leave the lines of communication open, most of these problems [with clients] would be resolved,” Fleming told the board. “This complaint can be resolved by getting the lawyer to return the call.”Other common complaints include staff rudeness, profanity, concerns about a client getting his or her file back, and concerns about firing an attorney or having an attorney cease representing a client.Some types of problems are beyond the ACAP program, she said. Those include trust account problems, damage to the client by an action or inaction of the attorney (which can be recovered in a civil action), and incompetence. In those cases, the clients are sent a grievance form. Cases involving fee disputes may be referred to the Bar’s fee arbitration program.Callers to ACAP include not just clients, but also opposing parties and lawyers, creditors, ex-spouses who are usually looking for child support payments, and citizens concerned about the conduct of a publicly employed attorney, Fleming said.The program is staffed by five attorneys, three program assistants and one program administrator, she said. March 1, 2004 Regular News Complaints against lawyers declinelast_img read more