When a Lawyer Should Hire a Lawyer
In the course of their work, many attorneys face difficult decisions under deadline pressure. This stress and the normal challenges of life can lead to problems even for experienced lawyers. When a client makes a complaint or a colleague raises concern about an attorney’s work, they might find themselves facing a disciplinary proceeding. When this happens, some lawyers choose not to retain counsel to represent them in this matter, but this could make a significant concern much worse.
If you’ve received notice that a disciplinary board is investigating you based on an allegation of professional misconduct, your first inclination could be to fight the accusation on your own. There are many reasons for this. You might be embarrassed about the charge or reluctant to share details about the case with others, including coworkers and prospective clients. Alternatively, you might be sure that the allegation is meritless or based on a misunderstanding, and you can resolve it easily on your own. After all, your job is to resolve tough legal challenges for clients, why not do so for yourself?
Actually, there are several reasons to bring in an attorney with experience handling professional discipline matters. As in any other area of legal practice, it is of the utmost importance to retain an attorney who not only understands the letter of the law but how those rules are applied. Rules on client communication, management of funds, adequacy of representation, advertising, and other matters are complex. A lawyer well-versed in attorney ethics issues can explain how situations similar to yours have been resolved. Along with decisions and advisory opinions from your state, there might be relevant cases from other jurisdictions whose provisions are based on the same model rule.
By hiring a qualified attorney, you will also gain insight into the attorney discipline procedures that apply to your situation. Even if the allegations against you are frivolous, it is worthwhile to retain a legal advocate who has insight on how to resolve matters promptly and successfully. An adverse result from an ethics investigation could lead to an admonition, suspension, or even disbarment, so it is imperative to present the strongest possible defense. Professional discipline cases might also be related to civil or criminal legal actions that could be brought against you. Mistakenly assuming that you don’t need an experienced attorney to represent you in an ethics investigation could have serious negative consequences.
The long and short of it? Yes. Hire a lawyer.