You might think that knowing the law would help you stay well on the right side of it. But even lawyers may end up toeing the line. Doctors get sick like everyone else. Lawyers sometimes get arrested.
Certainly, there’s a big difference between an arrest and a conviction, but the arrest is often enough to make you feel stressed and anxious. What might the arrest mean for your career? Could it lead to discipline from the State Bar? Do you need to report it?
Here’s what attorneys need to self-report
The short answer is that you do not need to self-report your arrest. The State Bar notes that an arrest “is not an independent basis for disbarment or suspension.” But the longer answer is that your arrest may have consequences, and you should know how you need to respond if you find yourself facing charges.
You don’t need to report all criminal charges, but you do need to report:
- Any indictment or information charging you with a felony
- Any felony conviction
- Any misdemeanor conviction that involves your practice, a client or a crime of dishonesty or moral turpitude
As the State Bar notes, you also need to self-report several other types of judgments, sanctions and disciplinary actions. These include:
- Any sanctions of $1,000 or more
- Any professional discipline from another jurisdiction
- Reversals of judgment that target misconduct, misrepresentation or gross incompetence
You also need to report your stake in lawsuits and settlements when you are the target of multiple lawsuits within a one-year period or if you received a judgment or settled a lawsuit for:
- Breach of fiduciary duty
- Gross negligence
You need only report these settlements or judgments if they involve your professional work, but it’s worth remembering why the State Bar cares. The State Bar serves as a consumer protection agency for all Californians with legal concerns. The agency wants to ensure that Californians looking for attorneys will find ones who can offer them a fair shot at justice.
That’s why attorneys are legally bound to report these issues, along with several others. And it’s why you could face discipline simply for failing to self-report any of the listed concerns.
Stay ahead of your case
It pays to know what you need to report. The odds are good that the State Bar will learn about the issues anyway. California’s courts, prosecutors, banks and insurance companies all report certain information, and you don’t want the State Bar to hear things from them and not from you.
You don’t want to try to escape your responsibilities. You want the State Bar to see that you’re owning them.