The Attorney Grievance Commission wants an answer ... in 15 days!What should you say in response to a grievance filed against you?
How should you say it?
And, perhaps even more important, who should write it?
In Bar Counsel's view, lawyers facing attorney grievances "should certainly consider retaining counsel experienced in disciplinary matters." Indeed, "[s]uch counsel can be invaluable in assessing the attorney's disciplinary exposure and can assist in composing a response that addresses the complaint squarely and objectively." Grossman, The Client Grievance, Maryland Bar Journal at 62 (May 2011).
Lacking experience with disciplinary investigations, attorneys who fail to take this advice may ultimately regret the consequences. Without the benefit of objective counsel, otherwise outstanding lawyers may drop subtle hints of evasion or righteous indignation that raise more questions than they resolve—unwittingly prompting further proceedings and, in some instances, harsher sanctions.
Rather than place their law licenses at greater risk, my colleagues have retained me to compose responses which satisfy their duty to cooperate with disciplinary investigations—without inviting greater scrutiny. By ghost-writing these letters for their signatures, I am able to counter contentions of professional misconduct with articulate responses that exemplify the professionalism of my clients.
If successful in addressing Bar Counsel's concerns, my clients are able to avoid protracted investigations, more formal proceedings and sanctions. But even if the matter goes beyond an initial inquiry, my involvement at the earliest stage of an investigation lays a positive foundation for responding to more formal charges, peer reviews and adversarial hearings.
In this way, I strive to minimize the disruption of the attorney grievance process so that my colleagues may do what they do best—represent their clients rather than respond to their grievances.