Lawyers in need of a CA bar court defense have several options to choose from. The real concern is which option they should choose. It’s an important decision since disciplinary action from the bar can impact your career in several ways. In this post, we’re going to explain the basics of each CA bar court defense option available as well as give you some tips on when that specific option could be your best choice.
Related: The 5 Factors Affecting California State Bar Disciplinary Actions
Do Nothing – Ignore the Complaint
Yes, some lawyers think that this is a valid CA bar court defense. If they just ignore the complaint, the bar will surely see that nothing is really wrong and just go away…right? No, the ethics investigator will not just go away. There are still deadlines. Much like any other legal matter in which you’re involved, failure to respond could mean a less than desired result.
There is no situation where a lawyer should ignore an ethics complaint. The complaint should be read in its entirety so that there is a clear understanding of why the investigation started. You don’t necessarily have to agree with why it was opened. You just need to understand what you’re facing.
Self-Representation as a CA Bar Court Defense Option
Like anyone named in a legal proceeding, you have the right to represent yourself. Initially, this may seem ideal since you’re a lawyer. You’ll save money since you’re not paying a lawyer to represent you. Self-representation may be ideal in very small disciplinary matters where the potential consequences are extremely minor.
It is not appropriate if you’ve faced the California bar on a previous disciplinary matter. It is also not appropriate if you’re facing more serious repercussions such as suspension or disbarment.
Related: 5 Reasons You Shouldn’t Represent Yourself During Attorney Discipline
Legal ethics is its own practice area much like family law, contracts, or personal injury. If you don’t have any experience in ethics defense, you could quickly find yourself lost. It’s important to note that while you’re handling the bar investigation, you’ll still need to manage your entire practice.
Limited Scope Representation as a CA Bar Court Defense Option
Limited scope representation can help you by providing access to the resources and expert knowledge you need and save you money when compared to full scope representation. You can get assistance with a specific task (or several specific tasks) and handle the other tasks on your own.
Much like self-representation, limited scope representation is a better choice for lawyers dealing with their first (and hopefully only) bar complaint and when they aren’t facing extreme consequences. Again, though, it’s important to remember that preparing your own CA bar court defense will be done on top of maintaining your current active cases for your clients. Think carefully about whether that’s something you can reasonably handle.
Full Scope Representation as a CA Bar Court Defense Option
Full scope representation helps by providing you with the full representation experience. You’re hiring a California ethics defense lawyer to help you prepare and present the best possible defenses for the allegation(s) made against you. Although it is more costly than the other defense options, it can also help reduce the stress associated with the investigation. You’ve hired someone that knows the law and who can put their experience to work on your behalf.
This option is best suited for lawyers who may be suspended or disbarred, who have more than one previous disciplinary action, and lawyers who do not want the added stress of handling their own defense.
Learning More about CA Bar Court Defense
If you want to learn more about bar court defenses, check out Statebarplaybook.com. It is an interactive site that includes all of California’s ethics rules, commentary for the rules, example forms, a walk-through of the entire disciplinary process (from receiving a complaint all the way through appeals), and a forum. You’ll be able to learn more about bar court defenses from Megan Zavieh, a California legal ethics defense lawyer; the rules and their commentary; the forms and walk-throughs; and others who’ve been in your situation. It’s a fantastic resource that should be used by all licensed California attorneys.