For the public

Lawyer regulation

Filing a grievance

The Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR) can only handle grievances against attorneys who are licensed to practice law in the State of Wisconsin. For contact information regarding lawyer disciplinary agencies in other states, go to http://www.abanet.org/cpr/disciplinary.html (external link).

Grievances can only be filed against individual attorneys, not law firms. Grievances filed by one person against multiple attorneys will be handled separately. To preserve confidentiality, do not refer to the alleged misconduct of one attorney in a grievance concerning another attorney.

Please see the pamphlet "Grievances Involving Wisconsin Lawyers" Adobe PDF for additional information.

Instructions for filing a grievance

Grievances can be submitted over the telephone. Call (608) 267-7274 or (877) 315-6941 (toll free) to file your grievance.

If you prefer to submit a written grievance, you may send it in the form of a letter, or use the online grievance form by clicking below. You may either print the grievance form and complete it by hand, or type in the information online and then print it. (Note: You must have the full version of Adobe Acrobat to be able to save the form or any information inserted in the form. When completing the form online be sure to print it out before exiting or your work will be lost.)

The online grievance form cannot be filed electronically; it must be printed and mailed to the Office of Lawyer Regulation (see below for address).

Form and filing tips

Grievance form PDF

For questions, please call (608) 267-7274 or (877) 315-6941 (toll free), and choose option 1.

Frequently asked questions

Question: Can the Office of Lawyer Regulation help me settle a dispute about the amount of my attorney’s bill?
Answer: No. Fee disputes usually do not involve issues of professional misconduct. The State Bar of Wisconsin has a Committee on the Resolution of Fee Disputes which may be of assistance to you. You may write the Fee Arbitration Administrator, State Bar of Wisconsin, P.O. Box 7158, Madison, Wisconsin 53707-7158 or phone (608) 250-6185. For more information on fee arbitration, visit the State Bar’s website (external link).

Question: What happens after a grievance is filed?
Answer: Upon receiving a grievance, the Office of Lawyer Regulation conducts a preliminary evaluation. The results of that evaluation may include: 1) forwarding the matter to another agency, 2) reconciling a minor dispute, 3) closing the matter because it does not present sufficient information to support a potential ethical violation, or 4) referral for formal investigation or diversion to an alternative to discipline program.

If the grievance provides information sufficient to support a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct for Attorneys, a letter is sent to the attorney by OLR staff requesting a response. When all pertinent information has been received by OLR staff, a determination is made as to whether (a) an uncontested violation exists, (b) the grievance should be dismissed for lack of evidence, (c) further staff investigation is needed, or (d) the matter should be assigned for further investigation by a district investigative committee.

The investigator will seek all relevant information regarding the allegations, whether inculpatory or exculpatory. Upon completion, the Director may take any of the following actions: 1) dismiss the matter due to a lack of sufficient evidence, 2) divert the matter to an alternative to discipline program, 3) seek the respondent attorney’s consent to a private or public reprimand, or 4) present the matter to the Preliminary Review Committee for a determination of cause to proceed. The Director may dismiss the matter, request additional investigation, dismiss the grievance with a letter advising the attorney that the conduct comes close to being a violation and should be avoided in the future, divert the matter to an alternatives to discipline program, or agree to the imposition of a private or public reprimand without a public hearing if the attorney consents to it. In cases of serious misconduct or cases where the attorney will not consent to a reprimand, the Director must present the results of his/her investigation to the Preliminary Review Committee for a finding of cause to proceed to file a disciplinary complaint against the attorney with the Supreme Court seeking reprimand, suspension, disbarment, or conditions upon the continued practice of law. In cases where an attorney may have a medical problem that is affecting his/her practice, the Director, using the procedure noted above, can file a petition with the Supreme Court seeking a suspension or conditions upon the continued practice of law for reasons of medical incapacity.

When the Preliminary Review Committee finds cause to proceed, the Director may seek consent to a private or public reprimand, divert the matter to an alternatives to discipline program, or file a complaint with the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court may revoke or suspend a license, reprimand an attorney publicly or privately, impose conditions upon an attorney’s practice, or order a monetary payment (usually for the purpose of restitution).

Question: How long does the grievance process take?
Answer: In some cases, it may take as little as 30 to 90 days. In other more involved, complicated cases, it may take as long as one to two years. Our goal is to complete all grievance investigations within one year.

Question: Can I find out if an attorney has had grievances filed against him/her?
Answer: In a few instances, yes. The Office of Lawyer Regulation can disclose cases where public discipline has been imposed: (1) a public reprimand without public hearing upon consent of the attorney, and (2) where a formal complaint is filed against the attorney in the Supreme Court. Information is available by contacting the Office of Lawyer Regulation.

Question: Can I find out if an attorney has been disciplined?
Answer: Yes, but only public discipline. You can find out if an attorney has been publicly reprimanded, suspended, disbarred or had conditions imposed upon the continued practice of law by contacting the Office of Lawyer Regulation.

Question: Can the Office of Lawyer Regulation refer me to an attorney?
Answer: No. However, the State Bar of Wisconsin has a Lawyer Referral and Information Service. The phone number for Madison callers is (608) 257-4666. Statewide callers can call (800) 362-9082. Or you can visit their website (external link).

Question: Who can I contact if I have questions about the disciplinary process?
Answer: You can contact the Office of Lawyer Regulation.

Question: Can the Office of Lawyer Regulation give me legal advice?
Answer: No.

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