There are few things more terrifying in the life of a lawyer than receiving a letter from the bar questioning their fitness to practice. Most lawyers are at a loss on what they should do. This causes panic. And panic only makes the entire situation worse. If you’re notified that the bar is questioning your fitness to practice law, here’s what you should do.
Read the Entire Letter
We know that this suggestion likely caused you to feel dread. However, reading the entire letter is necessary so that you can understand what happened that caused the bar to send the letter in the first place. Did you recently relocate? If so, it’s likely that you forgot to do something you needed to do. The objective is to determine if you missed part of the process or if the bar think you may have done something within your practice that caused concern.
Review the Rules in Your Jurisdiction
Having your fitness to practice law questioned is an extremely serious matter. Once you understand the reason why the letter was sent, you can review the rules listed within the letter. This will help you better understand what’s happening. You should also read any other applicable rules related to your practice. Understanding how these rules work together can make it easier for you to craft a defense before you write your response.
Locate the Proper Resources Before You Respond
Before you respond to defend your fitness to practice, make sure that you locate the proper resources. Search for message boards with members who’ve faced similar situations. What did they do? What worked well for them? If any of your colleagues or friends have been in a similar situation, talk to them. Ask them about their response. What resources did they rely on? Look on the bar website and other websites devoted to lawyers in your jurisdiction. There may be articles that can help guide you. The proper resources can help you understand the process as well prepare you for what’s to come. You may also be able to learn important points that can help you in your defense.
Consult with an Ethics Defense Lawyer
Nothing shakes the confidence quite like the experience of the bar questioning how you practice. It can make you feel less confident in yourself and in your abilities. Consider scheduling a consultation with an ethics defense lawyer in your area to learn more about the bar and what you need to do. Depending on the severity of the potential consequences, you may want to find someone who provides limited-scope representation or full-scope. They can guide you as to what phrases may be helpful and the tone that you should take to increase the likelihood of the bar treating you more favorably. Regardless of whether you choose to ultimately represent yourself, get help with your response, or hire an ethics defense attorney to handle the matter on your behalf, a consultation can help point you in the right direction.
Stay Calm When Interacting with the Bar
From your initial response to the letter questioning your fitness to practice all the way through the end of the process, stay calm when you interact with the bar. Successful navigation of this circumstance requires that you are able to remain objective and think clearly. If you cannot remain calm, you should talk with an ethics defense lawyer. Angry tones will not help you during this time. Try putting yourself into the shoes of any of your past clients. You’ve dealt with at least one who was worried about what was happening. What did you do to help them become more objective? Take some time to center yourself before you respond to the allegations against you.