Solo & Small Firm

In the Know: What Happens When the State Bar of California Places A Lawyer on Probation

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June 6, 2019 | Robin Bull, Zavieh Law,
Reprinted with Permission

The State Bar of California has several options when administering discipline in ethics investigations where the lawyer is found to be running afoul of the ethics rules. Some of the disciplinary actions the State of Bar of California may take are private or public reprimand, sanctions, suspension, and disbarment. Additionally, the California Bar also has the discretion of placing a lawyer on probation.

Successful Completion of Probation Relies on Remaining Compliant with the California Bar

There is little leeway when it comes to successful completion of probation as a lawyer. You have quarterly reports that must be completed. You’ll have deadlines that you must meet. You’ll have restitution payments that you must remember to make. You’ll likely be ordered to complete certain programs to help you avoid future ethics complaints.

Although this may seem much easier to deal with than a suspension or disbarment, you must remember that all of the probation requirements assigned to you by the State Bar of California must be completed while you continue to run your practice. Noncompliance could result in consequences that are much more serious than the original punishment.

Fulfilling Your Probation Obligations Requires a Plan

Because of the increased obligations you must meet, it’s important that you have a plan that helps you. Depending on the initial cause of the ethics complaint, you may need to:

  • Review your law firm management plan.
  • Embrace better organization of your office, files, and your life.
  • Implement legal technology, such as timekeeping and billing.
  • Hiring the support you need to stay on track.
  • If necessary, get help for mental health issues or substance abuse issues.

It’s important to recognize that you need to find solutions that help you fulfill your probation obligations and manage your law firm. Failure to recognize this could mean that you’re putting yourself at risk for both violating probation and to have future ethics complaints filed against you.

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