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Lawyers Helping Lawyers Avoid the Perils of Professional Discipline

Testing Bar Counsel's Power

As one law professor wrote, this oral "argument delve[d] into the philosophy of attorney regulation and the appropriate role of disciplinary counsel in a way that few cases do."

The Court's upcoming opinion in this case may help to define the purposes and parameters of our disciplinary system. This case involves a D.C. Bar member charged with the unauthorized practice of law from a Maryland office that Bar Counsel tacitly approved years before. Visiting this office on an unrelated matter in 2015, Bar Counsel's senior assistant knew the lawyer wasn't licensed to practice law in the State. But rather than prosecute her for this "continuous and systematic presence," the assistant offered recommendations for maintaining it.

Over three years after she followed this advice, Bar Counsel took a different view of the office that her former assistant toured, accused the lawyer of committing a crime for staying there, and ultimately demanded her disbarment.

Finding no evidence of sinister motives or any other wilful infraction, the trial judge believed Bar Counsel's "extraordinary delay" in pressing charges to be highly prejudicial. Lacking evidence that this lawyer actually handled Maryland cases, Bar Counsel's own witnesses confirmed that the respondent focused on D.C. cases and left Maryland matters to staff attorneys licensed to handle them.

Moving to dismiss all charges, Irwin Kramer urged the Court to preclude Bar Counsel from prosecuting an attorney who followed her assistant's recommendations. As Georgetown Legal Ethics Professor Michael Frisch wrote, "the argument delve[d] into the philosophy of attorney regulation and the appropriate role of disciplinary counsel in a way that few cases do." Having repeatedly held that the purpose of attorney discipline is "to protect the public, not to punish the erring attorney," several members of the Court seemed poised to apply equitable defenses to disciplinary charges for the very first time and questioned the need to prosecute her. The Court's answer to that pivotal question may set significant parameters on the administration of justice for lawyers.

Argued: September 13, 2021

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Attorney Grievance defense attorney specializes in defending lawyers in disciplinary proceedings before the Maryland Attorney Grievance Commission and the D.C. Bar's Board on Professional Responsibility involving professional misconduct, legal ethics, disbarment, suspensions of law licenses, petitions for disciplinary action, reprimands and sanctions for unethical conduct. If you receive a letter from Bar Counsel Lydia Lawless, Disciplinary Counsel Hamilton Fox, or from any attorney disciplinary board in Maryland or the District of Columbia, retain experienced attorneys with expertise in lawyer discipline and breach of ethics cases to avoid sanctions for professional misconduct. We help lawyers avoid disbarment, suspension, reprimands, censure and informal admonitions by drafting responses to client grievances and ethical complaints; representing lawyers in peer reviews, evidentiary hearings, and oral arguments before the BPR and the Court of Appeals; filing petitions to reinstate an attorney's license to practice law; conducting law firm ethical compliance audits; and drafting legal ethics opinions to protect lawyers from ethics charges. In many cases, disciplinary proceedings may be dismissed, dismissed with a warning, or result in a conditional diversion agreement with Bar Counsel to rectify misconduct. Lawyers may need help in managing their law firm attorney escrow IOLTA trust account and complying with attorney trust accounting rules to avoid charges of ethical misconduct. Do not represent yourself in responding to an attorney grievance, law firm client complaint, or other allegation of ethical impropriety. Attorney grievance defense counsel may help you comply with legal ethics rules, avoid sanctions like suspension or disbarment, and avoid future attorney grievances.


By The Lawyer's Lawyers | Kramer & Connolly and Irwin R. Kramer who are responsible for the content of this informational website.   This website is designed for lawyers faced with attorney grievances. As cases do differ, past performance does not guarantee future results.