Professional conduct for lawyers is important. As an ethical issue, the goal of disciplinary proceedings is to protect the public from being harmed. When a lawyer purposefully or inadvertently violates the rules of professional conduct, they may be subject to a disciplinary hearing. One common question commonly answered by Zavieh Law is whether the length of time a lawyer has practiced affects the possible outcome of the hearing. Megan explained the nuances of this often challenging question on Attorney at Work’s website.
Length of Practice as a Mitigating Factor
When it comes to a violation of professional conduct for lawyers, length of practice time may be a mitigating factor. When a brand new lawyer has a grievance filed against them, they may be given a lighter punishment than someone with decades of experience. However, it’s important to keep in mind that because we’re discussing an action that may be considered as something that harmed the public, less experienced attorneys won’t always have this as a mitigating factor. Even new lawyers are expected to understand the consequences of their actions.
The States Don’t Agree on Professional Conduct for Lawyers
Megan’s article points out the clear difference between how states may treat a grievance filed against a lawyer for violating professional conduct for lawyers. For instance, Nevada Supreme Court Rule 102.5 expressly mentions inexperience as a mitigating factor. Yet, California doesn’t mention it.
Protecting the Public & Creating a Fair Process for Attorneys
Overall, the goal of disciplinary committees is to protect the public from harm. Attorneys who are facing a disciplinary hearing are entitled to a fair process. Yet, the system isn’t perfect. When we consider items like inexperience as a mitigating factor and that not all states agree that it should be used, it can create a problem. Even lawyers who are highly experienced and with no previous record of alleged ethical violations may not be treated in a way that’s fair.
Lawyers facing an allegation regarding professional conduct for lawyers should consult with an ethics defense attorney. Ethics defense attorneys work with lawyers to find the right defenses and mitigating factors to help ensure a fair process. It’s not just a matter of knowing the professional conduct expected out of attorneys in your state. It also becomes a matter of defending the serious allegation that significant harm to the public occurred.
For lawyers who are admitted in several jurisdictions, it’s important to know, understand, and abide by the separate rules of professional conduct for each one.
Know Your Options
If you’re facing a disciplinary hearing, it’s important that you know your options. Zavieh Law provides limited scope and full scope representation for lawyers facing allegations of ethics violations. To learn about your options, click here to schedule your 45 minute consultation.
If you receive an ethics complaint from the California Bar and you’re not sure where you should start, check out The State Bar Playbook. This is Megan’s interactive and easy to use guide (and community!) that will help guide you through the process from receipt of the complaint all the way through the appeals process!