Of course, most lawyers do their best to avoid doing something worthy of bar discipline. While avoidance is certainly the right road, it often means that lawyers don’t understand how the bar discipline system works. While each state handles attorney discipline in its own way, there are some basics that you should know.
Bar Discipline May Involve an Investigation
When a complaint is filed with the bar, the disciplinary committee will review the complaint to determine if they believe a violation may have taken place. If the committee believes that it is likely that a violation occurred, an investigation will take place. However, if the committee reviews the complaint and does not believe that a violation occurred, the matter will be closed.
If an investigation is initiated, the attorney in question will be asked to respond to the allegation. The response could involve turning over certain records or it could just be a written objective summary of what happened. From there, the bar discipline committee will determine whether to prosecute.
What about Integrated Bars?
How bar discipline takes place partially depends on whether the jurisdiction has an integrated bar. With an integrated bar, discipline will be handled by the bar. The courts may still play a role by determining sanctions.
In jurisdictions without an integrated bar, discipline is handled by the court from the very moment a complaint is filed.
Take the Time to Learn about Bar Discipline Your Jurisdiction
It’s important that you take the time to learn about the bar discipline process in the jurisdictions in which you’re admitted. This should happen before you’re ever involved in a disciplinary proceeding. You can start by determining which body, the bar or the court, handles bar discipline. Then, take the time to look for resources provided for lawyers in your jurisdiction.
If you’re involved in a disciplinary matter, remember to stay objective. You should consider limited or full scope representation to help protect your reputation and your law license. Bar discipline often comes with harsh consequences. To learn more about what you can do if you’re under investigation for a violation, check out this post and then schedule your consultation with Zavieh Law.
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!