If you want to hear from Michigan’s Attorney Grievance Commission (AGC), here are the top three things to do.
1. Ignore Your Clients
When attorneys ignore their clients’ requests for help, contact, or action, they are playing with fire. True, anyone can file a Request for Investigation with the AGC. True, there is no statute of limitations on grievances. Still, if you are going to have a complaint, chances are it will be from a client.
Unhappy clients are not new. Procrastinating lawyers are not new. Put the two together and you have a situation ripe for a professional complaint.
Best advice: Answer calls from your clients.
2. Mess up your Trust Account
We have a new law in effect. If your client IOLTA account dips below zero, your bank automatically contacts the AGC.
It does not matter if your client bounced a check to you, if you miscalculated your balance, or if your secretary wrote a Trust Check when it should have been a firm check. That balance dips under zero and you can count on getting a formal letter from the office of the AGC. That letter will require you to act fast to account for the problem. The AGC is going to look into your account … probably at least the last three months of activity. You are going to get all kinds of questions.
Best advice: Keep your accounting current and exact.
3. Handle criminal defense and domestic relations cases
Both of these types of cases involve a lot of emotion. Emotion prompts complaints. Even lawyers who are very professional and competent in handling cases in these two practice areas are probably going to have to deal with a grievance at some point in their careers. Convicted criminals have time on their hands, and they tend to complain. Some find their way to the AGC. Angry litigants fighting out a divorce or custody matter also tend to lash out; sometimes at everyone, including you.
The numbers tracked by the AGC show that these two areas of practice generate the most AGC complaints.
Best advice: Avoid these types of cases if you can’t keep clean, organized files that reflect what you did and when you did it.
Do you have questions or want to share your own story about attorney grievances? Let us know in the comments below!
Brian Vincent served on the Michigan Attorney Grievance Commission for six years (including three years as the Commission Chairperson) and counsels attorneys who face complaints. Contact Brian online or at (616) 608-4440 if you need to respond to a grievance.