Consumers can check an attorney's record by consulting with the disciplinary organization for the state in which the attorney practices law, FindLaw says. All states have some type of organization that monitors attorney records, and when a client files a complaint against an attorney, the state must investigate the claim and decide on the proper punishment.
There are ethical laws established in each state to which lawyers must adhere, Nolo says. Generally, the laws require the attorney to keep his clients' information confident, represent each client with undivided loyalty, represent his client within the law, and put the interests and needs of his clients ahead of their own.
The disciplinary agency established for each state enforces those rules, Nolo explains. When the agency finds that a lawyer has broken a rule, it can impose punishment for the lawyer, including monetary fines, requiring the lawyer to pay restitution, disbar the attorney or suspend the attorney's license to practice law for a certain period of time. Disbarment is not common and is generally reserved for attorneys who have a history of stealing from their clients.
The most common problems people have with their attorneys are communication issues, ethical issues, fee disputes and competence problems. Clients generally have a problem in more than one of these areas, Nolo notes.