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Commonwealth of Massachusetts


Attorney and Consumer Assistance Program

What is the Attorney and Consumer Assistance Program (ACAP)?

The Attorney and Consumer Assistance Program (ACAP) is part of the Office of the Bar Counsel of the Board of Bar Overseers. ACAP is a source of assistance to people with questions or problems with their Massachusetts lawyer. When someone calls the Office of the Bar Counsel with a grievance concerning a lawyer, a member of the ACAP staff will respond promptly to that inquiry and attempt to identify the problem. Many problems can be resolved by providing information, calling the lawyer, or suggesting alternative ways of dealing with the dispute. A complaint form will be sent immediately where serious unethical conduct may be involved.

What can ACAP do?

What follows are some typical problems and what ACAP will do to help:

What ACAP cannot do.

ACAP deals with problems that can be resolved without extensive investigation and the disciplinary procedures of the Board of Bar Overseers and the Office of the Bar Counsel. When a caller alleges serious misconduct, such as the mishandling of client funds, ACAP will provide a complaint form and urge the caller to file it with the Office of the Bar Counsel. Although ACAP cannot give legal advice, when a caller needs legal assistance, we will direct the caller to other resources for assistance.

How does ACAP assist attorneys?

ACAP helps attorneys by providing an informal means of addressing minor complaints from dissatisfied clients and others. We also give information and suggestions about effective resolution of disputes in an ethical and professional manner.

Most problems with clients can be prevented by returning the client’s calls promptly, keeping clients informed about the status of the case, written fee agreements, regular billing practices, meeting deadlines, and managing a caseload efficiently.

In some cases, ACAP will refer lawyers to Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers, peer assistance and practice management assistance through local bar associations, and the Office of the Bar Counsel ethics hotline for information and help.

NOTE: THE ACAP PROGRAM IS NOT A "LAWYER ASSISTANCE PROGRAM" AS DEFINED IN RULE 1.6(C) OF THE MASSACHUSETTS RULES OF PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT.

Confidentiality

As an arm of the Office of the Bar Counsel, ACAP is governed by the Supreme Judicial Court rules which mandate that the Office of the Bar Counsel and the Board of Bar Overseers keep complaints confidential. Thus, ACAP cannot disclose that someone has contacted us about an attorney. However, ACAP’s connection to the Office of the Bar Counsel also requires that ACAP’s records be available to Bar Counsel and that ACAP advise Bar Counsel if it receives information indicating that a lawyer is engaging in serious misconduct. A consumer who makes a written or telephone inquiry to ACAP is immune from liability based on the inquiry. This immunity does not extend to public disclosure by the consumer of information contained in or relating to the complaint.

How can I get more information?

Call ACAP at (617) 728-8750 any Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. The fax number is (617) 482-2992. You may also write to the following address:

Attorney and Consumer Assistance Program
The Office of the Bar Counsel
99 High Street
Boston, Massachusetts 02110

ACAP does not accept inquiries over the Internet.



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