Legal misconduct, also known as Attorney Misconduct relates to an attorney – who is licensed, that breaks certain laws or that break conduct roles. Every single country has its own set of standards, so therefore every situation is going to be different overall, but what we’re going to be talking about in this article, relates to lawyers in the United States. Beyond just criminal or civil punishment, if the attorney does something really bad, they can actually have a severe punishment that could get their license taken away, disbarment, or even jail time.
I think most people will agree that when it comes to a lawyer, they are quite valuable. This also means that if they can be swayed, they could be creating a very different outcome for their clients or the defendants of the case. Lawyers hold a lot of responsibility for the clients that they take on. In fact, quite a lot of public as well as private trust is put into lawyers because it’s essentially thought that they will act in a very responsible and legal manner, right? Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case and because of this some other lawyers in this profession could be deemed untrustworthy or may make it so that other trustworthy lawyers have a bad rap for the bad apples. That’s why severe action comes into place when Attorney Misconduct happens. It’s used to not only punish the person for the crime, but also to deter others from doing the same thing. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, because some lawyers think because they know the law, they can work their way around things and not get caught!
Various acts can be considered Attorney Misconduct. Most of the criminal acts are things like fraud or bribery – even accepting small items like a free meal can be construed as misconduct and bribery. Another form of misconduct is obtaining evidence illegally or even coercing testimonies. Criminal actions, even if they are unrelated to the profession or a specific case, can also be consider misconduct. For example is a lawyer is found to be driving under the influence and they get pulled over, this can turn into a disciplinary action. Attorney -client privileges can also create Attorney Misconduct. For example, conflict of interest; when a lawyer has a personal interest in a case or when an attorney represents a family member, this too can turn into Attorney Misconduct. Even something as simple as gossip, like that of client confidentiality, can in turn end up getting the lawyer into trouble.
In the simplest situations, when it’s something very mild, the attorney may receive a letter of concern from the ethics board to the lawyer. Now this is probably as mild as it can get. But, it’s more or less a warning letting the lawyer know that the jig is up, and that it’s time to put a stop to whatever is going on. On the other hand, if you have a more serious case of Attorney Misconduct, this can result in worse things like disbarment, suspensions for the license, being publicly reprimanded, etc. Being disbarred is one of the, if not THE worst thing that can happen to a lawyer. When something like this happens, it means that attorney is no longer allowed to practice in that specific city or state. However, even if a lawyer has this happen in say, Florida, and they move to New Jersey for a new license, the disbarment can lead to essentially ruining the lawyer’s career forever. You’d be surprised at how public a disbarment is, because the American Bar Association wants to make people in the legal field aware of a lawyers mishaps.