Three Common Issues That Lead to Ethics Complaints for Lawyers

As lawyers, we owe several fundamental duties to our clients. We must provide competent legal representation, and we must abide by the ethical rules and principles that underpin the practice of law.

Failure to meet these duties can have serious consequences—for both lawyers and their clients. As a result, all lawyers should take proactive steps to ensure that they consistently meet their ethical obligations. By prioritizing ethical compliance, and by documenting their compliance as necessary, lawyers can improve the quality of their representation while minimizing their risk of facing ethics complaints and disciplinary action.

The Most Common Ethics Complaints Against Lawyers According to the ABA

These are the three most common ethics complaints against lawyers according to the American Bar Association (ABA):

1. Neglect

Part of providing competent legal representation involves attending to clients’ legal needs in a timely manner. Neglecting a client’s case or transaction can have serious—and sometimes irreversible—consequences. To avoid allegations of neglect, lawyers should use docketing software (or other tools) to keep track of all client-related deadlines; and, if they don’t have enough hours in the day, they should enlist help as necessary.

2. Lack of Communication

Failure to communicate with clients can lead to dissatisfaction and ineffective representation. Clients have the right to be kept informed of the status of their legal matters, and lawyers must communicate effectively to help their clients make informed decisions when necessary. When communicating via phone or videoconference, lawyers may need to follow up in writing to confirm what was said and document their efforts to keep their clients duly informed.

3. Misrepresentations and Dishonesty

Making misrepresentations and engaging in other dishonest practices are among the most serious ethical allegations lawyers can face. These allegations will often present risks for suspension or disbarment, and they will frequently lead to civil litigation. This type of case will frequently focus on a lawyer’s fees and billing practices; however, dissatisfied clients may file complaints alleging numerous other forms of misrepresentations and dishonesty as well.

Defending Against Allegations of Ethics Violations as a Lawyer

Of course, just because a client files an ethics complaint, this doesn’t necessarily mean that disciplinary action (or civil liability) is warranted. Sometimes clients have unreasonable expectations, and sometimes they do not have a clear understanding of the terms of their engagement or the strictures of the attorney-client relationship. As a result, while lawyers should prioritize ethical compliance, they should also defend themselves when faced with allegations that threaten their reputation, license or livelihood. If you need professional liability defense counsel, we can help, and we encourage you to contact us promptly to discuss your next steps in confidence.

Speak with a Professional Liability Defense Lawyer at Rendigs

Our professional liability defense lawyers have extensive experience representing other lawyers in disciplinary proceedings and civil litigation. To schedule an appointment with a lawyer at Rendigs, please call 513-381-9200 or tell us how we can reach you online today.