You Got a Letter From the State Bar: Do You Need a Lawyer?
By Ashod Mooradian
After nearly a decade as a senior prosecutor with the State Bar of California, Ashod Mooradian founded a boutique practice exclusively focused on providing legal ethics and professional responsibility consultations and State Bar matter representation in disciplinary, regulatory or admission-related cases. Currently, Ashod is a member of the standing ethics committees for the Los Angeles County Bar and the California Lawyers Association, and the American Bar Association’s Center for Professional Responsibility (CPR). In 2019, Ashod was awarded CPR’s Jeanne P. Gray Diversity Scholarship and worked on diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives for the legal profession nationwide. In August 2020, Ashod launched www.StateBarHelp.com to provide guidance and resources for California attorneys.
Most California attorneys would agree that receiving a letter from a State Bar investigator requesting a response to a client complaint or State Bar initiated investigation would be very distressing to say the least. In addition, if not handled properly, a State Bar disciplinary investigation can be catastrophic to any attorney’s professional reputation or worse result in actual suspension from the practice of law or even disbarment.
As detailed below, the reality of the situation is complex and not all bad. Statistically speaking, most California attorneys will not receive a complaint or come under investigation for ethical misconduct by the State Bar in the first place. On the other hand, if the attorney cannot satisfactorily explain the alleged misconduct, the case will be escalated, and the attorney will suddenly find themselves exposed to a very high statistical risk of having discipline imposed against them.