Earlier this week, we shared information with you on ethical relocation as a lawyer. Even with the best intentions, mistakes are sometimes made. If you neglect something that the is required by the state bar in your new jurisdiction, you could receive a letter questioning your fitness to practice law. Getting that letter is a shocking experience. If you receive a letter of this nature from the state bar, consider these five suggestions.
Determine Why Your Fitness to Practice Law Is Being Questioned
Read the entire letter you received. Why is your fitness to practice law being questioned? Did you file the wrong form? Did someone file a complaint against you with the bar? You must understand what triggered the letter so that you may plan your strategy. When you’re changing your jurisdiction, certain actions are more likely to trigger an investigation than others. The letter could be routine and not an attack on your fitness to practice law.
Review the Rules
The letter you received will likely reference the rules that they alleged you violated. Make a note of those rules, look them up, and read them in full. Then, read any other rules that relate to your practice. It’s important to understand the rules and how they correlate so that you can defend yourself and your actions.
Find the Proper Resources
After you’ve taken the time to review the letter questioning your fitness to practice law and read the stated rules, it’s time to find the proper resources. Some resource suggestions include message boards for lawyers that have dealt with a similar situation, talk with colleagues or friends who’ve gone through the process, and articles written about your situation. This will help you determine what to expect. This can also better explain the potential consequences that you face. Those potential consequences will help you decide whether you should represent yourself.
Consider Talking with a Lawyer
You may decide that you don’t believe that you need to hire a lawyer to help you defend your fitness to practice law. It’s still a good idea to call around to bar defense lawyers in your area to find out what they think of your situation. This can help you ascertain the likelihood that you can, indeed, successfully defend yourself.
There are some bar defense lawyers who may help you draft your response even if you don’t need full scope representation. Limited scope representation is extremely beneficial. Bar defense lawyers understand the best phrases to use, how you should behave, and what you should do to fix the situation.
Above All, Don’t Panic
The most important suggestion from Zavieh Law is don’t panic if you receive a letter questioning your fitness to practice law. It is certainly an emotionally draining situation. Yet, for you to successfully handle the situation, you must stay objective and calm.
Learn about the California Bar
If you’ve received a letter questioning your fitness to practice law from the California Bar, you need Megan Zavieh’s The Playbook. The Playbook is an interactive guide that explains the rules of professional conduct for California lawyers. It also explains the process of a bar investigation from the initial letter all the way through the appeals process. Don’t wait. If you’re being investigated by the California Bar, The Playbook is the resource you need.
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!