Whether you practice here in California or in some other state, you must follow certain rules as an attorney. When you fail to do so, you could end up under fire and facing disciplinary action.
Even though you had to learn those rules at some point, that does not mean that mistakes aren’t made. Sometimes, lawyers forget the rules and don’t realize they may have crossed the line. In other cases, the allegations simply aren’t true. Regardless, it might be a good idea to review what the American Bar Association lists as misconduct.
Do you know what Rule 8.4 says?
According to the ABA, misconduct includes any of the following:
- Actions involving deception, misrepresentation, fraud or dishonesty
- Committing a criminal act that makes it difficult for people to trust you, to believe you speak the truth or otherwise puts your fitness as an attorney in question
- Engaging in conduct that you should reasonably know constitutes discrimination or harassment based on the following:
- National origin
- Gender identification
- Sexual orientation
- Socioeconomic status
- Marital status
- Attempting to violate or violating the Rules of Professional Conduct, doing so through another person’s actions or inciting another to do so
- Carrying out conduct that is prejudicial as it relates to the administration of justice
- Knowingly helping a judicial officer or judge violate judicial conduct rules or the law
- Implying or stating that you can influence the decision of a governmental official or agency through violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct
As with most other things relating to the law, these rules may require some interpretation. The line is rarely as clear as you would like. Someone may file a complaint about you based on a misperception, but that does not mean that the issue just goes away. You may still need to defend yourself against the allegations regardless of the fact that they are baseless.
When your license to practice law is at stake, you also risk your livelihood and your future. The old saying attributed to Abraham Lincoln that says, “He who represents himself has a fool for a client,” may apply in these situations. You may know your chosen area of law well, but when it comes to defending against ethical violations, you may be better off looking to a colleague with experience representing attorneys in these matters.