You do not have the right to remain silent in a disciplinary matter, so take the opportunity to be heard in the best light possible. A disciplinary complaint usually starts out as a letter of inquiry. This does not mean a finding of professional misconduct. It is merely a request for information. Many disciplinary matters end at the letter of inquiry, before they are ever referred to an investigator or prosecutor. This is your best opportunity to tell your side of the story. You must not ignore the disciplinary agency that notified you. You have a version of the events, so tell it. Neglecting to respond is and of itself a violation of the disciplinary rules.
Do your due diligence. Gather the evidence, good and bad. Hire an advocate to represent you. You cannot and will not be objective about complaints against your license. You need a sounding board for what happened. You need an attorney whose opinion you value and respect, someone with whom you can be completely candid and honest, someone who will not judge you, and someone who will be candid with you about what to expect.
Your attorney must be able to take the evidence you gathered, and apply the evidence to the disciplinary decisions that have been made in your jurisdiction. This will give you a rough idea of how serious the complaint against you might be. This is the reality check that your attorney advocate can provide for you. If the complaint against you is not serious, it may be able to be handled at the letter of inquiry stage by explaining the facts, taking responsibility for any minor infractions, laying out a corrective action plan to prevent recurrence, and showing remorse.
However, if your letter of inquiry goes on to become a formal complaint filed against you, remember it is not the end of the world. You will survive, and you can go on to prosper. Frequently, lawyers are harder on themselves than they are on anyone else. Do not allow a disciplinary complaint to destroy you. You worked hard to get your law license, now work even harder to keep it. You need to have someone represent you who knows how to coach you through a disciplinary case.
At Phillips Law Firm, Inc., we have successfully defended lawyers in the disciplinary process. We have handled cases involving lawyers who received the letter of inquiry that went no further, all the way through defending attorneys facing a recommendation of disbarment. We have also guided attorneys through the reinstatement process after a disciplinary suspension was served.
Every case is unique, and will have to be evaluated based upon its own facts and circumstances. If you are an attorney facing disciplinary action, and you want to talk to somebody about what happened, we can help you.