When you were in law school, you likely remember sitting through an entire class called “Professional Responsibility.” You also probably remember your law professors stressing different actions you might want to avoid taking in different practice areas to avoid putting yourself at risk for ethics complaints to the state bar.
As a practicing attorney, you’re the person everyone turns to when tough decisions need to be made. You likely often find yourself having to make judgment calls in nuanced situations. Bearing this responsibility leaves you vulnerable to making the wrong decisions and having to face the consequences of your actions. Do you know the key element among some of the more common reasons lawyers end up facing disciplinary action?
Why a lack of organization can get attorneys in trouble
The American Bar Association (ABA) Model Rule 1.32 states that attorneys should be prompt and “act with reasonable diligence” when representing their clients. That rule goes on to give examples of what rises to the level of appropriate actions an attorney should take.
These include employing the use of technology to track scheduling or house client case information and keeping on top of costs. Attorneys often face ethical dilemmas that lead to disciplinary action hearings because they aren’t organized enough to manage potential conflicts of interest or client finances.
While many attorneys do their due diligence to ensure that taking on one client doesn’t cause a conflict with an existing one they’re helping, that’s often where their efforts end. It’s necessary for attorneys also to ensure that they check for potential adverse interests among both successive and concurrent clients. Lawyers must also consider their relationships with non-clients and any information they learn about their clients outside of what they’ve mutually discussed when deciding if a conflict of interest exists.
Financial matters are high on the list, along with conflicts of interest in terms of why attorneys end up facing disciplinary action. Some of the more common reasons this may happen include:
- Neglecting to set up a separate account for managing client funds
- Borrowing money from the bank account they do set up
- Having overdrafts in one of these accounts
You’ll want to know what to expect at a disciplinary hearing if you’re facing one. This information can prove invaluable as you look to participate in your defense against the allegations you’re facing.