For some disputes in the general area of consumer complaints, you may need legal advice or representation. Depending on the issue you are trying to resolve, you may be able to find free or low cost legal services. In addition, a number of online legal resources are available. If your dispute can be resolved out of court or in small claims court, it may be that you can help yourself by looking up statutes and generalized online legal advice.
Small claims court can sometimes be an alternative to litigation. Small claims court does not require you to hire an attorney. You are required to pay a filing fee, which ranges approximately from $70 to $100, and you can sue for an amount up to $10,000 (up from $5000 prior to 2007).
Small claims court is handled through the appropriate local justice of the peace in the county where the person or business you are suing is located. You can read more about filing in Small claims court by reviewing our Weekly Column, "Small Claims Court Can Help Resolve Disputes."
The following are examples of issues that may require you to obtain the services of a private attorney, particularly if a significant sum of money is involved:
A signed contract defines the terms of your agreement with another party. If you later find the terms unfavorable or that the other party is not adhering to the agreement, you will probably need a private attorney to assist you. These issues generally cannot be processed as consumer complaints. Disputes between businesses are often contractual in nature and therefore often cannot be resolved through a consumer complaint process.
If you have concerns with a property owner's association you may also want to review the Texas Residential Property Owner's Protection Act and Chapter 207 of the Texas Property Code, "Disclosure of Information by Property Owners' Associations."
The State Bar of Texas operates the Lawyer Referral Service which can help you find an attorney in your area with relevant expertise. You can contact the service at (800) 252-9690. Many private attorneys will offer an initial consultation for a nominal fee or even for no fee.
If you have a complaint about an attorney licensed in Texas, contact the State Bar's Client-Attorney Assistance Program (CAAP). CAAP provides mediation services and accepts complaints. You can contact CAAP at (800) 932-1900.
You can report the unauthorized practice of law in Texas (i.e., a person acting as an attorney without a license to do so or even without a law degree) to the Texas Unauthorized Practice of Law Committee.
Please understand that under Texas law the Office of the Attorney General is prohibited from providing legal advice, representation or opinions to private individuals and organizations.