Attorney discipline is a serious matter. Even relatively minor sanctions can have far reaching consequences that you may not have expected. Many lawyers decide to represent themselves for one reason: the cost associated with hiring a legal ethics defense lawyer. However, before you decide to represent yourself, you should consider the following 5 reasons you shouldn’t represent yourself.
The Complaining Witness Is a Member of the Legal Community
When it comes to a disciplinary complaint, the identity of a complaining witness is considered by the investigator. You should take that under consideration, too. A disgruntled client may or may not have a valid allegation against you. While the bar certainly has the option to perform an investigation into your actions to determine if the public is at risk, they also have the discretion of dropping the matter.
However, if the complaining witness is a judge or another upstanding member of the legal community, you could find yourself involved a precarious situation. State bars take these complaints quite seriously. If the complaining witness who filed the complaint against you is part of the legal community, you should consider getting help with your defense.
It’s Not the First Attorney Discipline Matter You’ve Faced
If you’ve already faced the bar for a previous attorney discipline matter, get a professional to help you. The bar will be less likely to negotiate with you at this point. Getting a legal ethics defense lawyer truly is your best option.
You’re Unable to Respond Objectively
An objective response is your best tool in an attorney discipline matter. The fact is a disciplinary complaint is often taken by lawyers as a personal attack on how they run their practice. If you’re upset, you’re not alone. However, a response that attacks the complaining witness or one that is overly emotional can do more harm than good in your defense. Do whatever you need to do to calm down. If you can’t formulate an objective response, you should at least consult with a lawyer to help you draft one.
You’re Struggling with a Substance Abuse Problem
Substance abuse is a serious problem in the United States. Being a professional doesn’t make you immune to it. In fact, lawyers have a higher instance of substance abuse than many other professions. The ABA refers to substance abuse as a disease. However, state bars take legal ethics investigations seriously. If you have a substance abuse problem, it could impact your ability to defend yourself appropriately. In addition to talking with a defense lawyer who can help you come up with a defense plan, you should also make sure that you address the issue that caused the complaint.
You’re Facing Suspension or Disbarment
Suspension and disbarment are extremely serious sanctions. Do you know what you’d do to support yourself and your family if you could no longer practice law? Whether you could even take on a support staff role would depend on the rules in your jurisdiction. A defense lawyer may be able to negotiate on your behalf and help you keep your license to practice law.
Schedule Your Consultation with Zavieh Law
If you’re facing an attorney discipline matter, you have a lot on the line. Schedule your consultation with Zavieh Law to find out how you could benefit from full scope or partial representation.
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!