After completing your undergraduate work, you may have gone directly into law school, or you may have taken some time to decide if being a lawyer is really what you wanted. In any case, your time in law school was likely intimidating, stressful and exhausting. You may have had moments when you wondered whether this was right for you.
Nevertheless, law school can be exhilarating. Completing the grueling years of study may have been among your greatest and proudest accomplishments. However, because you practice law, your behavior is under greater scrutiny, and your actions have more serious consequences than for most other people. In some cases, accusations that you said or did the wrong thing can cost you that hard-earned law license.
What actions can lead to the loss of my license?
The privilege to practice law in California requires you to maintain a high ethical standard. An extreme violation of these ethics could result in disciplinary actions, including disbarment. Since disbarment is the most serious penalty a disciplinary committee can impose, it is generally saved for the worst ethical violations. For lesser violations, you may receive a fine or suspension. Some reasons why a disciplinary committee may decide to disbar you include the following:
- While any criminal conviction will likely result in a disciplinary review, a conviction for a crime of violence may lead to disbarment.
- Disciplinary committees take seriously any conviction for crimes that bring into question your honesty and integrity, which are critical for practicing law.
- If the bar association determines that you lied on your application for your law license, they will strip you of your license.
- Failing to pay your bar dues or maintain your license through continuing education can lead to the loss of your license.
- Acting in other ways – or failing to act – that demonstrates your intention to defraud your clients is unethical and can lead to disbarment.
The most common reason for disbarment is breach of fiduciary duty. Your clients entrust you with money related to their cases, and the law requires your office to place that money safely in a trust account. Accusations that you took from or mismanaged a client’s trust account could have very serious results. Widespread or especially egregious allegations may have a disciplinary committee considering stripping you of your license.
Losing your license means you cannot legally practice law in California. This may mean the loss of your job, your livelihood, your pride and reputation. If you are facing accusations of violations that could result in disbarment, you should not deal with this alone. An attorney with experience in disciplinary matters can be of great assistance.