You worked for years to gain the knowledge you needed to pass the Bar exam and obtain your law license. It might seem a little unfair, then, that a mistake could strip you of your license to practice — even though you still have all the requisite knowledge to be a good attorney.
Some things are more likely to get your license taken away than others. If you look at the most recent list of attorneys who have had their licenses put on probation, been suspended or outright been disbarred, you’ll see a few specific trends.
Here are the kinds of things that can result in serious disciplinary action against an attorney in California:
- Drunk driving — You’re more likely to get a harsher penalty if you make this mistake twice or more (or injure someone). If you’ve already had one drunk driving conviction, don’t take the risk again.
- Dishonesty — This covers a variety of sins involving “moral turpitude” and is often closely related with issues like corruption or obstruction of justice. A lawyer must never forget that they are first and foremost an officer of the court. Your actions always have to be above reproach.
- Excessive fees and money woes — Overcharging your clients, failing to return money you didn’t actually earn, diverting a client’s funds for your own use, not keeping accurate records and similar acts will get you anything from a suspended license and an order of restitution to a full disbarment, depending on the seriousness of the incident. Even an accidental mistake could cause problems. This is why it’s important to have standard practices in your office that are designed to mitigate your risks.
- Failing to comply with a probation condition — If you’re already in trouble with the Bar, pay attention to the terms of your probation. If you’ve agreed to oversee another attorney who is on probation, take the issue seriously, or you could be next.
Defending your professional license is nothing you want to attempt alone. If you’ve been accused of misconduct of any kind, seek experienced legal assistance right away.