It can be a shock to receive a formal notice that a complaint has been filed against you in your work as an attorney. This could carry serious consequences to your license to practice, your livelihood, and your career. You've spent years building your professional reputation and cultivating your practice, and it may all be at risk because of a single complaint. Your first instinct may be to deal with it on your own. After all, you are a lawyer, and are used to dealing with whatever curveballs may come at you.
As a lawyer, you understand that specialized proceedings should be handled by an attorney with specialized experience. I have more than ten years experience representing lawyers facing disciplinary proceedings. As a courtesy, I offer a no-obligation consultation where I will take an in-depth look at your case. We can discuss the seriousness of the allegations, what options you have available, and how best to proceed. Whether it is just a disgruntled client, or something much more serious, you can rest assured that you will get a straightforward assessment of your case.
What to Expect
Attorney discipline in the State of Washington is governed by the Washington State Supreme Court. The office charged with reviewing, investigating and prosecuting ethical conduct grievances is the Washington State Bar Association's Office of Disciplinary Counsel (ODC).
After a grievance is filed against a lawyer, the ODC will conduct a first review to determine if further investigation is warranted. If the ODC decides to take action, they will conduct a confidential investigation. If the counsel finds evidence of an ethical violation, the disciplinary counsel may refer the matter for review by a Disciplinary Board committee, to further investigate or to order a hearing.
If a hearing is ordered, it will become a public matter. A hearing will take place before a hearing officer, who is a lawyer-member of the State Bar. Decisions by the hearing officer may be appealed to the Review Committee and Disciplinary Board. The review Committee and Disciplinary board are also responsible in reviewing any case where suspension or disbarment is ordered. Possible penalties include probation, a suspended license for up to three years, or you may be disbarred.
At each progressive stage of the investigation, you may find yourself closer to having disciplinary action taken against you. For this reason, I recommend consulting legal counsel as soon as you become aware of an investigation or complaint. The earlier you have representation from a lawyer experienced in attorney license defense, the more options will be available to dispose of the matter.
More information on the attorney disciplinary process is available at: http://www.wsba.org/Licensing-and-Lawyer-Conduct/Discipline