When Your Professional Reputation Is On The Line
There Is Value In Having A Legal Ethics Attorney Advocate For You
You’re practicing law and get a letter from The New York Attorney Grievance Committee. It’s a bad feeling to read the words, “…the attached complaint has been filed against you.” It’s intimidating to read further and learn that you have limited time to respond.
I count my blessings every day that I was fortunate enough to have had an awesome attorney help me through the process.
Clients have a lot of questions—first and foremost, “What is the worst case scenario?” You want to know what this complaint means and how it can affect your career and your practice. You need to understand the range of consequences and how each could impact you. Fear is going to have you wondering if this problem will interrupt your ability to make a living. These are all typical feelings and questions.
You take your reputation very seriously, so a complaint is a real threat. Maybe you’ve been practicing law for decades without a complaint. You might have personal feelings and strong emotions about the complaint (frivolous complaint, bitter client that does not want to pay, fee dispute). What’s important though is moving beyond those frustrations and solving this problem as swiftly as possible.
It’s Time To Defend Against An Attorney Grievance or Conduct Complaint
You May Be Wondering, “What Is My Plan And What Should I Do?”
Thanks again for all of your help! The peace of mind you gave me was worth every penny!
Being busy is the norm for attorneys, and at a minimum, it’s a bad use of your time to try to defend yourself. You need counsel, and you need guidance through the process. Maybe you’ve tried to respond already or you’re tempted to do so. When you think about the lost billable hours, you remember Abraham Lincoln famously said: “He who represents himself has a fool for a client.”
My Working Philosophy With Professional Conduct Complaints…
Shapes The Way We Work Together On Your Case
When I advocate for New York attorneys on professional conduct matters, my working philosophy is important. You can expect me to take the following approach with your case and how to respond to a New York Attorney Grievance Committee Complaint.
- Whenever possible, responding quickly and honestly has the best chance of getting the complaint dismissed. Let’s identify all concerns and take sincere proactive steps to address them. I recommend responding with candor and full cooperation—taking responsibility for your part. There is rarely a time when it is too late to take some remedial measures or mitigate your mistakes.
- My approach is always about prevention, mitigation, de-escalation, and minimizing damage. Where appropriate, my preferred working method is to guide clients away from conflict and hostility. Our aim is usually to have the least interference with your professional life. If the complaint should end in consequences, we want them to be in the lower range of possibilities.
- In complaints where someone has made a regrettable mistake, the right advocacy can help state your case in the most credible fashion. Just explaining how you are a really honest person is unlikely to suffice. How do you demonstrate that a mistake was in fact a mistake and that it won’t happen again? I thrive on defending initial complaints as an advocate on behalf of my clients. My aim is to provide a sincere, impassioned defense that helps truthfully and thoughtfully share your account.
- There is great value in understanding what the red flags are and how to address them. Knowing the important factors that go into any professional conduct analysis can be strategically critical. It can help guide the strategic approach with respect to the presentation of truthful information provided in a response.
Let’s Understand The Context For Attorney Grievance Committee Complaints
It Will Give You A Feel For How This Works
A General Outline of Process And Potential Consequences
Here’s A Bit Of Background on Attorney Disciplinary Matters
The process generally starts with a complaint requiring you to submit a written answer. As Respondent, you will need to address all of the allegations in the Complaint.
1 Submit A Written Answer to Complaint— Every complaint should be met with a written response. This is an important opportunity to provide relevant factual and legal background information to put everything into the proper context and perspective.
2 Follow-up Questions And/Or Requests— There may be additional follow up questions from the Attorney Grievance Committee Staff Counsel conducting the investigation. It could also involve a request for documents, or a request for an Examination Under Oath. All of these should be navigated with extreme caution and with the benefit of the advice of your counsel.
3 Complaint Is Either Dismissed or Additional Action Taken— At the end of this investigation, it may end in one of two ways. The complaint will either be dismissed and the Attorney Grievance Committee’s file can be closed or some other action will be taken.
If The Complaint Is Not Dismissed
When a complaint is not dismissed, there is a range of potential consequences.
- Letter of Advisement— If the Complaint is not dismissed, the Respondent could receive a Letter Of Advisement. This is basically a confidential “warning” letter and does not constitute professional discipline. While it is not public, an Attorney Grievance Committee or Court may consider it in the future in determining the action to be taken or the discipline to be imposed upon a subsequent finding of misconduct.
- Admonition— If professional misconduct is found, it may not warrant public discipline. A potential result is a private admonition. This is a private form of discipline. Again, it is not public, but an Attorney Grievance Committee or Court may consider it in the future in determining the action to be taken or the discipline to be imposed upon a subsequent finding of misconduct.
- Formal Charges— For serious misconduct, formal public charges may be brought by the Attorney Grievance Committee. In this case, a hearing will likely be involved, and things get much more difficult, complex and expensive. Potential outcomes can include:
- A public censure
Let’s Schedule A Conversation Before You Respond To Any Attorney Grievance Committee Letter
To See If You Wish to Engage Me to Defend You
It is important to remember that a significant number of initial Attorney Grievance Complaints ultimately get dismissed. However, there are two questions about risks that I like my clients to consider:
- Do you want to risk the consequences of potentially mishandling a response to an unwarranted complaint?
- Do you want to risk potentially raising other unexpected red flags that could trigger further investigation even when you have nothing to hide?
Most lawyers appreciate the importance of getting these matters right the first time. Invest in the peace of mind that comes with knowing you are taking control of protecting your reputation and your livelihood.
If You Have Just Learned That A Complaint Has Been Filed Against You
David is a knowledgeable, dedicated, and effective attorney. Sensitive to the client’s needs in sometimes delicate matters. Will recommend him without hesitation.
Call To Find Out How You Might Benefit From Representation
It is almost always wise to be represented by experienced counsel. It is certainly always wise to at a minimum have a conversation to determine if you need representation. Let’s discuss whether or not your situation requires representation.
Where To Next?
Now that you understand how Professional Conduct Complaints representation works, you may want to learn about other services related to Legal Ethics Counseling.