“Why do I need a lawyer to represent me with the State Bar?”
It feels like the worst thing that can happen to you as a lawyer: that dreaded envelope from the State Bar, with the “CONFIDENTIAL” red stamp. You've just received a bar complaint, and you don’t know what to do. The last thing you want is to read your name in the discipline section of the “Arizona Attorney” magazine. But you don’t believe you've done anything wrong, or, you may know you have erred, and since you know the facts better than anyone, why not just tell the Bar what you know and be done with it. Right?
Wrong! Lawyers often make matters worse by filing a pro se response. Lawyers who represent themselves in bar discipline matters often receive more serious sanctions for comparable conduct than those who are represented by experienced defense counsel. Your first response to a Bar complaint is critically important.
According to the State Bar: your initial response is often the dispositive document in disciplinary proceedings. Bar Counsel screen approximately 1,200 charges annually and agree that the most effective response is a thoughtful, complete, dispassionate narrative, with any supporting documentation. (State Bar’s Office of Lawyer Regulation Annual Reports).
As with anyone, lawyers find it difficult to be dispassionate and objective when their ethical conduct is called into question. You also have to ensure that client confidences and privileged information in your response are protected. You need an experienced attorney to guide you through the difficult process of responding to a bar complaint.
Don’t put your professional license in jeopardy by trying to represent yourself in a Bar complaint. The discipline system is different: it’s neither civil nor criminal, but sui generis (Supreme Court Rule 48). It is complex system with its own unique rules, requirements you are unfamiliar with, players you likely don’t know, stringent time deadlines and serious consequences should things go badly for you.
The costs associated with a State Bar investigation include your time, reputation, peace of mind and wallet – as discipline costs have been drastically increased over the years. As attorneys, we all know how difficult it can be to deal with an unrepresented party; yet so many lawyers don’t get the help they need when faced with a foray into the “Lawyer Regulation” system.
Our experienced attorneys have each been practicing law for more than 30 years, including more than 50 years combined experience in discipline and ethics issues. Since 1995, our practice has been focused primarily on legal ethics. We've helped hundreds of lawyers with State Bar matters. Hardworking professionals trying to do the right thing—people just like you. We’d like to help you too.
Contact us for a free consultation about your case.