The Office of Disciplinary Counsel (ODC) was created by the District of Columbia Court of Appeals to investigate and prosecute complaints of ethical misconduct against lawyers licensed to practice law in the District of Columbia who violate the D.C. Rules of Professional Conduct (RPC).
The Rules describe a lawyer’s obligation to clients, the courts, and the general public in professional and private dealings. The purpose of this process is to protect the public by disciplining lawyers who violate the ethics rules. Our office cannot consider complaints against judges acting in a judicial capacity.
For additional information, see Purpose and Mission.
The Office of Disciplinary Counsel cannot represent you, give you any legal advice, or change the outcome of a court decision.
The Office of Disciplinary Counsel cannot refer you to an attorney. You may consult the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center to obtain information about legal representation by calling their Legal Information Help Line at 202-626-3499.
Contact the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center if you are an individual living in poverty who is at risk of losing your home, your livelihood, or your family. The Center also helps small businesses and community-based nonprofits needing legal assistance.
Try to resolve issues with your attorney by communicating your concerns clearly and asking for a response. Your attorney should clearly explain the fee agreement and scope of representation, keep you aware of developments in your case, and respond to any reasonable requests you may have for information.
If you feel that your problem is the result of poor communication or a misunderstanding between you and the attorney, you should have an open talk with the attorney before you file a complaint.
The D.C. Bar’s Find a Member feature provides the same publicly available contact information for attorneys that we would be able to share with you. If you are still unable to reach your attorney, you may need to file a complaint with our office.
The D.C. Bar’s Find a Member feature enables a search of all attorneys licensed to practice law in the District of Columbia. If an attorney is not listed as authorized to practice law and is advising you about D.C. law or representing you in Superior Court, please contact the Office of Disciplinary Counsel.
If we determine that your complaint should be docketed for investigation because it alleges facts that, if true, would violate the Rules of Professional Conduct, your complaint will be forwarded to the attorney for a response.
If you believe your attorney has violated the D.C. Rules of Professional Conduct, you should file a written complaint or complete and submit the complaint form (signed and dated) to the Office of Disciplinary Counsel via mail or fax. The form must be properly completed. Along with the complaint form, please submit relevant documents and information, including:
If you do not provide facts and documentation that support your complaint, it may result in either a request for additional information or a dismissal of the complaint.
You do not need to identify any rules you believe that the attorney has violated. In general, the Rules of Professional Conduct ensure that attorneys provide competent representation, protect the interests of their clients, act fairly, and are honest.
DO NOT SEND US ORIGINAL DOCUMENTS. WE CANNOT BE RESPONSIBLE FOR THEIR SAFEKEEPING OR RETURN TO YOU.
*The Office of Disciplinary Counsel does not represent you against the attorney or in any ongoing case involving that attorney.
A complaint should contain all information allowing Disciplinary Counsel to understand the problem. This should include your contact information, the attorney’s contact information, case numbers of underlying court cases, and a description of the problem you are having with the attorney. Include dates, the nature of the legal matter, and specific information about what you think the attorney did wrong. Provide as much facts and supporting documents as possible, including the fee agreement, court papers, and letters or notes that you would like us to consider. Send copies. DO NOT SEND ORIGINAL DOCUMENTS.
Your complaint will be reviewed by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel to ensure that it falls within the jurisdiction of the office and evaluated to determine if there are issues that form the basis of a disciplinary investigation. If the complaint falls within the office’s jurisdiction, it will be assigned to an attorney to conduct a preliminary inquiry or a disciplinary investigation. The assigned attorney will notify you if they are conducting a preliminary inquiry or if they are undertaking a confidential investigation of your complaint. You will be contacted if additional information is needed.
After the preliminary inquiry or disciplinary investigation is completed, you will receive by mail official notification of the disposition of your complaint. The complaint may be resolved through a review process, which includes one of the following:
No. You may let us know if you are satisfied with any remedial actions taken by your attorney, but Disciplinary Counsel is still obligated to investigate your complaint.
Yes. We may reach out to you for further information, and you will be notified of the outcome of our investigation.
Any of the following sanctions may be imposed on an attorney for a disciplinary violation:
You can look to see whether your attorney has been disciplined. Disciplinary Counsel is not permitted to disclose whether complaints were filed against an attorney unless they result in public discipline.
No. It may be more difficult to investigate a complaint after significant time has passed, but there is no statute of limitations for filing a complaint with Disciplinary Counsel.
Disciplinary Counsel has the authority to investigate complaints against attorneys. If we believe an attorney has violated their obligations under the Rules of Professional Conduct, we can seek to discipline the attorney.
Disciplinary Counsel cannot:
Yes. All complaints need to be in writing, but if you have a question about the process or whether you should file a complaint, please call us at 202-638-1501.
If you are unhappy about a legal fee, in addition to contacting our office you may file a fee dispute with the D.C. Bar’s Attorney/Client Arbitration Board. If you have lost funds due to an attorney’s dishonest conduct, you may be able to seek reimbursement from the D.C. Bar’s Clients’ Security Fund.
You can contact similar offices in other jurisdictions.
Disciplinary Counsel may not publicly disclose that the complaint has been filed. The D.C. Rules of Professional Conduct requires the Disciplinary Counsel to treat complaints as confidential matters until the attorney has been served with a petition instituting formal charges or has agreed to be formally disciplined.