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How to Handle an Ethics Grievance

Attorneys who practice long enough may encounter the prospect of receiving a letter from a bar disciplinary office containing notice of a complaint from a client or third party. Similar to legal malpractice claims, the majority of ethics grievances involve alleged misconduct by sole practitioners and lawyers in small law firms. An array of negative emotions, including anger, embarrassment and fear, may afflict the recipient attorney in this situation. Data from state bar disciplinary authorities reveal that, in most instances, attorneys need not panic. More than 90% of such grievance letters result in no disciplinary charges being filed. While that statistic reflects good news for attorneys the vast majority of the time, it does not mean that the substance of the charges or the disciplinary process should be treated in a cavalier manner.

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