Ethics Question of the Month March 2023

There’s Something I Need to Tell You

Do lawyers need to tell their clients about how to file a grievance?

The Situation

Jessica consults with an attorney, Jordan, regarding a recent car accident in which the other driver was at fault. Jessica has never hired an attorney before and knows little about attorney-client relationships or the legal system in general. As the case progresses, Jessica feels that Jordan is too slow in responding to Jessica’s calls and emails and does not keep her updated on the progress of her case. Jessica becomes increasingly frustrated and decides to retain a new lawyer, Taylor.

Taylor advises Jessica that she may want to file a grievance against Jordan with the State Bar of Texas. When Jessica responds that she did not even know that there was a grievance process and that she could file a complaint against her attorney, Taylor tells her that Jordan should have made that information available to her.

Under state law, what are Jordan’s obligations regarding advising Jessica about the grievance process?

A. Jordan was not required to notify Jessica about the grievance system unless and until Jordan “reasonably believed” that a grievable offense had been committed.

B. Jordan was required to provide information regarding the grievance system in the fee agreement with Jessica.

C. Jordan was required to provide Jessica with a brochure created by the State Bar of Texas regarding the grievance process at Jordan’s law office.

D. Jordan was required to post a prominently-displayed sign in the law office with information regarding the grievance process.

E. Jordan was required to provide grievance process information in the bills to Jessica.

F. Either C or D.

G. Either B, C or E

H. Either B, C, D or E.

The Question

Under state law, what are Jordan’s obligations regarding advising Jessica about the grievance process?

The Correct Answer is H Of 204 Responses, 28% are correct.

  1. A 39
  2. B 48
  3. C 5
  4. D 7
  5. E 6
  6. F 19
  7. G 22
  8. H 58

The Explanation

The State Bar Act, which is found in Chapter 81 of the Texas Government Code, sets forth the provisions governing the State Bar of Texas and its activities. §81.079(a) sets requires the State Bar to publicize the disciplinary process in four specific ways:

(a) To provide information to the public relating to the attorney grievance process, the state bar shall:

(1) develop a brochure written in Spanish and English describing the bar's grievance process;

(2) establish a toll-free "800" telephone number for public access to the chief disciplinary counsel's office in Austin and list the number in telephone directories statewide;

(3) describe the bar's grievance process in the bar's telephone directory listings statewide; and

(4) make grievance forms written in Spanish and English available in each county courthouse.

Moreover, §81.079(b) requires attorneys to advise their clients of the existence of the disciplinary process and how to file a grievance:

(b) Each attorney practicing law in this state shall provide notice to each of the attorney's clients of the existence of a grievance process by:

(1) making grievance brochures prepared by the state bar available at the attorney's place of business;

(2) posting a sign prominently displayed in the attorney's place of business describing the process;

(3) including the information on a written contract for services with the client; or

(4) providing the information in a bill for services to the client.

The correct answer is H.

The State Bar has a website to assist attorneys in complying with their obligations under with obtaining brochures and signage requirements, which is located at www.texasbar.com/Content/NavigationMenu/ForLawyers/GrievanceandEthics/RequiredNoticetoClients

Bluebook Citation

There’s Something I Need to Tell You: Ethics Question of the Month - March 2023, Texas Center for Legal Ethics (2023), from https://legalethicstexas.com/ethics-question-of-the-month/ethics-question-of-the-month-march-2023/ (last visited Jul 14, 2024)