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Are there alternatives to filing a complaint with the State Bar?

The simple reality is that when a person retains the services of an attorney, there's a very good chance that they're in the midst of trying times. Indeed, they may have been served with divorce papers, charged with a criminal offense, injured in a serious car accident or notified of an impending audit by the Internal Revenue Service.

Whatever the circumstances, it's extremely important that an attorney's client is able to trust not just their abilities, but also the way in which they conduct their business. What happens, however, when certain difficulties arise, but a client is not quite ready or willing to file a complaint with the State Bar of California? Does that individual have any alternatives?

As it turns out, there are alternatives to filing a formal complaint that clients may pursue in very common and highly frustrating scenarios.

What can I do if my attorney refuses to communicate with me?

The State Bar indicates that those experiencing communication problems with their attorney might consider placing a call and leaving a message with the necessary information. In the event this fails to produce a response within a reasonable timeframe, a client may then consider drafting their attorney a letter (perhaps return receipt requested) asking that the attorney contact them by a reasonable date.

The State Bar indicates that in the event the attorney once again fails to respond, the letter could be used as evidence for disciplinary purposes.

What can I do if I am having trouble getting my files from my attorney?

The State Bar similarly indicates that clients in these situations could draft a formal letter requesting the return of their file, such that it could be used as evidence in the event of noncompliance by the attorney.

Clients should understand that asking for the return of their file is never out of line. Indeed, the Rules of Professional Conduct mandate that attorneys return all property and papers belonging to the client, and that they are not entitled to keep the complete original file, only a copy made at their own expense.

Here's hoping the following information proved helpful. As always, in the event none of these options are preferable and you strongly believe that there are major problems with your representation, it may be time to consider speaking with another skilled professional about legal malpractice.

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