I was discussing with another attorney the idea that lawyers do not act in the disciplinary process the way they would advise their own clients to act. Just as doctors come in from their smoke break and tell their patients to stop smoking, we lawyers often have a very hard time being good clients.
So why is this? In the disciplinary process, I think it’s because it gets too personal. A complaint against you is an assault on your professionalism and your legal abilities. Often charges include such things as “failure to act competently” and “acting with moral turpitude.” What an affront to have such charges levied against you!
When such allegations are made, it often makes us so angry that we are either paralyzed and take no action whatsoever, or we launch into a tirade against the complaining witness and the Bar itself. Neither of these reactions is beneficial to the lawyer, and we all know that we would never recommend that a client take either of these paths.
So like the doctor who must try to take his own advice, so must lawyers facing disciplinary investigations. If you would tell a client to set his emotions aside and face the tasks at hand, that is what you must do as well. If you would tell a client not to delay and let the complaint age and deadlines pass, so too must you get the job done now.
And, perhaps most importantly, lawyers facing charges really do need to ask for help. Whether it’s from counsel or family or friends, it’s tough to face disciplinary charges alone. A team effort is far more likely to be a successful one.