Bar discipline certainly isn’t an occurrence that lawyers look forward to experiencing. In fact, most lawyers will do what they can to avoid the process. Yet, there are lawyers who end up going through the bar discipline process more than once. This often happens because lawyers remain angry and frustrated about the initial investigation. They’re often in denial that there was an actual problem that justified the investigation into their law practice.
Refusal to acknowledge a problem could feed directly into a vicious cycle. It’s time to look at bar discipline in another way that may even protect your practice. Could bar discipline make your law practice stronger? Ultimately, it depends on what you, as an attorney, decide to do with the outcome of the investigation. In this post, we’re going to explore how you could take the information from the bar discipline process and use it to build a stronger law practice.
Be Objective about the Investigation
To learn from the process and to rebuild a stronger law practice, you must first be objective about the investigation. Yet, it’s not always easy to be objective in our own personal and professional lives. If you’re struggling to be objective, get feedback from another lawyer. If you hired a bar discipline defense lawyer to represent you during the investigation, you could ask that person to provide you with an objective assessment. Your other option is to take another lawyer who knows you and your work habits.
Identify What Needs to Change
During this stage, you’re not looking for answers on how to effect a permanent change. You’re looking to identify the issue or issues that caused the bar discipline. Remember, the purpose of this is to help you build a stronger law practice. You can’t change anything until you’re able to address what changes must be made.
Find the Proper Resources
To protect yourself and your law practice from future bar discipline, you must find and use the proper resources. For example, if you need to improve the organization of your work environment, you could do it yourself or you could bring in a professional to help you get organized for efficiency. If the investigation focused on poor billing habits, rely on your paralegal or legal assistant to take over the billing. Choose software that can help you stay on top of the administrative tasks that come with running a law office.
Many of the lawyers who face bar discipline are solos. While you may find that you prefer the solo life, it does come with drawbacks. One of those drawbacks is the lack of professional support. Join a networking group for solo lawyers. Join the solo practitioners group offered by your bar association. Be honest about your struggles and your strengths. Your strengths can help someone who is struggling in that area. Someone else may be able to help you where you’re struggling. However, you won’t know if you’re not honest in both areas.
Embrace Professional Help
If you have a substance abuse or mental health issue, you’re not alone. Lawyers face a higher risk of dealing with both. You’re not the first lawyer to face bar discipline because of these issues and you won’t be the last. Yet, you can protect yourself and your law practice in the future by embracing professional help for these issues. You can get a referral from the bar hotline, your primary care doctor, or from anyone you trust. You cannot overcome these issues alone.
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!