Attorney discipline is a subject that makes lawyers cringe. And rightfully so. We’ve discussed the consequences of it. We’ve discussed what you should do if you receive an ethics complaint. We’ve even discussed ways that you can minimize the risks of having a complaint filed against you. So, while you now have some basic familiarity with the attorney discipline process, there’s still one fact you probably didn’t consider: whether your bar is integrated.
Integrated Bars and Non-Integrated Bars Handle Attorney Discipline in Different Ways
Integrated bars handle attorney discipline in a way that is different than a non-integrated bar. If you practice in a jurisdiction with an integrated bar, it is mandatory that you join it. Attorney discipline is handled by the bar. However, the courts are also involved to some degree. In California, the integrated bar receives the ethics complaints, investigates the matter, and then prosecutes the attorney (if there is a reason to do so). Attorney discipline is ultimately decided by the court.
If you practice in an area with a non-integrated bar, the court system handles the entire attorney discipline process. They receive the ethics complaint. They investigate the matter. They decide whether discipline is a necessity.
Take the Time to Learn about Your State
It’s important for you to know how your jurisdiction operates when it comes to attorney discipline. Take the time to learn this before a problem occurs. Learning how to navigate the system, even if you never need to do so, is beneficial.
If you’re in California, check out The State Bar Playbook. It’s Megan’s online, interactive guide to the California discipline system. With it, you’ll learn how the integrated system works in California. You’ll also learn how to handle the entire process: from the very first letter you receive from an ethics investigator all the way through the appeals process. You’ll also get valuable insight from the community, access to videos that explain important concepts, the detailed text from the State, and sample filings. To learn more about how The State Bar Play Book can help you, click here to access the Introduction.