Misconduct Complaints

If you believe that a lawyer violated the Rules of Professional Conduct you may file a complaint with the Virginia State Bar (VSB). The VSB Intake Office will review your complaint to determine whether your complaint describes attorney misconduct.  We cannot speak with you by phone or in person to discuss the merits of your complaint before you file or while your complaint is under review. Please use the drop downs below to guide you through the steps to file a complaint.

What to Know Before Filing a Complaint—Read These Essential Instructions

Submit a complaint if you have concerns regarding the conduct of a lawyer. We cannot advise you whether you should file a complaint. We cannot speak with you by phone or in person to discuss the merits of your complaint before you file or while your complaint is under review.

Submission of up to 50 pages including the Complaint Form or letter of explanation including any exhibits will be accepted.

Do not send the VSB your original documents. Do not provide the VSB with Personal Identifying Information such as your date of birth or Social Security number. You may indicate that additional evidence or exhibits are available upon request. If you handwrite your complaint, please print legibly. Identify your lawyer by full name.

Should you file a complaint?

Complaints should not be filed to gain an advantage in your dealings with a lawyer. Tell your lawyer why you are dissatisfied and try to work out your differences before filing a complaint. Filing a complaint should not take the place of communicating with your lawyer to resolve differences.

How to File a Complaint (Online Form Preferred)

All complaints must be in writing. Choose how you want to file a complaint: 

  1. Submit your misconduct complaint via the online form*; OR
  2. Download the complaint form (PDF file). Email the completed PDF complaint form as an attachment to [email protected] or mail it to the address below. Do not send us links to online file sharing sites unless we ask you to do so. OR
  3. Write a letter stating your situation and what unethical acts you believe the lawyer committed. The letter must contain:
    • Your full name, mailing address, email address, and telephone numbers;
    • The lawyer’s full name and address (We cannot accept complaints about law firms, only individual lawyers);
    • A brief but complete description of the facts explaining your situation; and
    • Your signature.
    • Mail the letter to: Intake Office, 1111 East Main, Suite 700, Richmond, VA 23219-0026

DO NOT send original documents to the VSB.  Send only copies of documents that help explain your complaint. Remove Personally Identifying Information such as Social Security numbers, dates of birth, driver's license numbers, etc. from your documents before you send these to us. If we need additional documents, we will tell you. 

All documents we receive will be destroyed according to the VSB’s records retention policies. 

*If you experience technical problems submitting a complaint, email [email protected] or call the Intake office at: (804) 775-0570.

Limitations of the Complaint Process

The VSB recognizes that people have many kinds of dealings with lawyers, but not all situations are processed as misconduct complaints. 

The VSB will not open disciplinary cases on:

  • Complaints about a lawyer’s fee.
    If you dispute a lawyer’s fee, visit the fee disputes page.
  • Dissatisfaction with the quality of a lawyer's advice or strategy in civil or criminal cases.
  • Complaints about judges in their judicial capacity. 
    Complaints about state court judges must be filed with the Judicial Inquiry and Review Commission  For complaints about federal court judges, see the US Courts website.
  • Complaints against elected or appointed officials.
    The VSB is sensitive to the possibility that a complaint might be motivated by opposition to the policies that public figures advocate. While we appreciate all information submitted to this office by concerned citizens, the disciplinary process is not a forum to review complaints against public figures involved in governmental affairs. The VSB cannot acknowledge cumulative complaints from members of the public who do not have direct, personal involvement in a matter.
  • Complaints about lawyers acting as Guardians ad litem or Commissioners in Chancery
    Your disagreement with the actions or decisions by a Guardian ad litem or Commissioner in Chancery should be voiced to the judge that appointed the Guardian ad litem or Commissioner in Chancery as these persons report directly to the court and not to any client.
  • Complaints that a guilty plea in a criminal case was not voluntary unless the guilty plea has been overturned by a court.
  • Complaints that a prosecutor prosecuted the wrong person or failed to prosecute a case.
  • Civil disputes with a lawyer, such as the lawyer’s failure to pay a bill to someone who has provided goods or services directly to the lawyer. These matters are handled through the civil justice system. 
  • Rude behavior by an attorney.
  • Complaints about Lawyers in the News.
    The disciplinary process is not a forum to express dissenting views about controversial matters advocated by government officials, lawyers, or other public figures who have been the subject of media coverage.

What to Expect After You File a Complaint

The VSB office will review your complaint. If your complaint does not describe misconduct under the Rules of Professional Conduct, we will inform you in writing.  

We may not acknowledge complaints from people who do not have personal involvement in the situation about which they complain. 

Complaints that raise issues of misconduct are assigned to the Office of Bar Counsel for investigation. If your case is assigned, a Bar Counsel staff attorney will contact you about that process. 

Confidentiality of Complaints 

Supreme Court of Virginia rules require that the disciplinary process be confidential unless the lawyer receives public discipline (admonition, public reprimand, suspension, or revocation) or a matter is scheduled on the VSB’s public hearing docket maintained by the Clerk of the Disciplinary System. 

The confidentiality requirement means that the VSB cannot and will not discuss your complaint with anyone except you, the lawyer about whom you complain, people who might have information about your complaint, and other persons within the attorney disciplinary system. The VSB requests that you protect the confidentiality of the system by not discussing your complaint or our investigation with others.  

The confidentiality requirement will not protect you from a civil lawsuit by a lawyer who believes he or she has been wrongly accused. Virginia law controls this aspect of complaints against lawyers, and the VSB has no control over it. If you have concerns about this area of the law, you should consult a private lawyer for advice.