Legal Malpractice: Helping Your Family Cope with the Fallout Caused by a Bar Complaint

Dec 11, 2018 | Blog

An allegation of legal malpractice is extremely stressful for lawyers. It’s also a terrifying experience for family. In this post, we’ll look at some of the family experiences that arise from an allegation of legal malpractice and what lawyers can do to help their loved ones deal with the stress. This post excerpts some of the most important information Megan gave in Episode 19 of LawyersGoneEthical.


An Allegation of Legal Malpractice Causes Several Negative Emotions

It’s not just lawyers who feel the effect of a bar complaint. It also directly impacts the lawyer’s family. Some of the negative emotions that may be felt include:

They’ll feel stressed. It is extremely difficult for family to watch one of the most important people in their lives go through something so stressful. Dealing with a bar complaint is the most stressful experiences a lawyer may deal with. Even if the bar complaint is dismissed, it’s still very stressful to sit on the sidelines.

It’s scary. Spouses and older children recognize that something is wrong. They also don’t know what will happen. As the sole income or the primary income, spouses will have financial fear. It’s likely they won’t say anything about it. They don’t want to add more stress to the situation or make it seem like the paycheck is the most important thing about the relationship.

They’ll feel helpless. Non-lawyer spouses may not understand the process at all. Lawyer spouses can’t necessarily do anything to make the situation better. It makes the family feel helpless because there is literally nothing they can do to help.

They may feel angry. Legal malpractice allegations are serious. Although family members may not really understand what’s happening and think that nothing inappropriate happened, they still know that the issue is related to the legal work performed. Even if the bar complaint is found to be baseless, the experience will still be associated with the legal work. And that can make family members feel angry.

Tips to Help Family Deal with Legal Malpractice Allegations

Lawyers can help their family deal with what they feel as a result of a bar complaint. In Episode 19, Megan suggested:

  • Keep them in the loop. Tell your spouse immediately if a bar complaint is filed against you. Don’t try to hide it. Hiding it will make the entire situation worse. As the process continues, update them. Don’t tell them once and then never speak of it again. That causes a lot of unnecessary stress.
  • Include your spouse in major decision making, including whether you’ll hire an ethics defense lawyer. Discuss the cost, options, and why you’re interested in hiring a certain lawyer. Introduce them to the lawyer you plan to hire. If there is a decision that will impact your spouse or your family, discuss it. Spouses feel better when they can be involved in some way. They may have insight to the situation that you don’t. Talking to your spouse could help you make more rational decisions. Rational decisions are incredibly important when dealing with the bar.
  • Prepare for the possible outcome. Talk with your spouse about what your family would need to do to support its current lifestyle. If it won’t be possible to maintain the current lifestyle, talk about what will need to change. While this certainly isn’t a pleasurable conversation to have, it can help in the long run because a plan can be created to deal with the worst possible outcome.
  • Spend more time together. Don’t allow the existence of the bar complaint to consume your entire life. Spend more time with your family and bond with them. You don’t have to take big, lavish vacations to do that. Just do more things together as a family.