The California Bar recently released its annual report on the discipline system covering the calendar year 2011. It is chock-full of statistics on case load, back log, resolution times, etc., but what really interested me was the sheer volume of complaints that continues to be received by the State Bar.
In 2011, the Bar received over 16,000 complaints of attorney misconduct. That is a drop of nearly 2,000 complaints from 2010, but the volume is still staggering. In 2008, the Bar received only 13,585 complaints.
Of the 16,156 complaints received, the Bar went forward on investigations of 4,967, or about one-third of the complaints.
The figures for complaints and investigations have remained very high in the past three years (2009, 2010 and 2011). In civil litigation we often say that when the economy goes sour, it’s a great time for business because disgruntled folks typically sue each other. It does not seem surprising, then, that attorney complaints also remain high during the troubled economic times. Though the Bar does not release any details about the nature of the underlying allegations, no doubt many of the matters have some underpinning in economic turmoil.
If you haven’t read through the Bar’s annual report, it is worth a read before venturing into the disciplinary process. If nothing else it gives some detail on how the process operates, and the statistical charts help you see what you’re in for in terms of timing. The Bar did a great job this year of reducing its backlog of investigations open more than six months, and no doubt it will strive to keep that figure low or eliminate it altogether. Thus, you can expect a complaint to move quickly from the point of filing through investigation, meaning that inquiries from the Bar must be responded to in a timely manner to avoid swift adverse action.