Good Lawyers in a Bad Situation: 3 Things to Do in Response to a State Bar Complaint

Although many attorneys in Kansas, Missouri and throughout the U.S. are disciplined by their state bar association or other professional disciplinary agency, most cases of discipline are not the result of intentional misconduct.  Although complaints against attorneys that make a splash with the newspapers and other media sources involve criminal offenses like theft, there are much easier ways to steal money than surviving the rigors of law school and the state bar exam.  According to one former state bar prosecutor, 80-85 percent of disciplinary actions taken against attorneys are linked to the attorney’s marginal business skills, lack of proper documentation of work performed, and failure to respond to a pending complaint.

The apprehension experienced by correspondence from the state bar regarding a potential complaint can cause paralyzing fear and stress.  However, the former state bar prosecutor referenced above indicates that the majority of complaints never make it past the intake stage.  The paralysis spurred by embarrassment, stress and fear that results in ignoring a state bar complaint probably is one of the most significant obstacles for most attorneys facing potential discipline.  This blog post suggests 3 tips Kansas and Missouri attorneys should take if they are contacted by the state bar about a complaint.

Tip 1 Relax: State bar associations recognize that many client complaints are not legitimate.  A letter from the state bar merely indicates that a complaint has been filed, but this does not mean that you are facing actual discipline.  The key is to relax and understand that you will need to respond with your side of the story.  However, you might want to contact an experienced Kansas Administrative Lawyer like Danielle Sanger with experience handling disciplinary proceedings against professionals.  She can advise you regarding your rights and help you in crafting your initial response to the state bar association.

Tip 2 Respond to the Complaint: At some point, you will need to respond to the complaint, so the worst thing you can do is ignore the state bar correspondence.  While you might want a license defense attorney to assist you in crafting your written response to the complaint, you should not default by not responding.  Failure to respond to a state bar complaint will result in a default by the attorney.  It is estimated that in California, for example, approximately forty percent of all cases that end in discipline involve default by the attorney.  Given the cost and work required to obtain a law license, there is no good reason to permit discipline to be imposed without asserting legitimate defenses.  Failing to respond will also result in harsher disciplinary sanctions.

Tip 3 Retain an Attorney: All attorneys are familiar with the saying, “A person representing himself has a fool for a client,” but this saying applies equally to attorneys.  When you are facing discipline stemming from a state bar complaint, you need an attorney who is objective and emotionally removed from the situation.  If you select an attorney who handles disciplinary proceeding on a regular basis, the attorney will be familiar with the best defenses and potential resolutions that mitigate the impact on your career.

Kansas Professional Licensing Defense Attorney Danielle Sanger is prepared to investigate the allegations against you and aggressively pursue available defenses to protect your law license.  If you are facing a state bar complaint, Attorney Danielle Sanger represents attorneys facing disciplinary proceedings in Missouri or Kansas, so call us today for a free consultation at 785-979-4353.