What is Lawyer Discipline?
"Discipline" occurs when a lawyer violates one of the many "Rules of Professional Conduct" that govern the conduct of lawyers in our state. The NC State Bar, the organization that licenses lawyers, enforces the Rules and doles out some type of discipline when a lawyer violates one or more of the Rules.
The Rules of Professional Conduct cover all aspects of a lawyer's professional behavior. Rules dictate what a lawyer should do when faced with a conflict of interest, how a lawyer should manage the client funds or property in his possession, and how a lawyer must keep a client reasonably informed about the legal matter. The Rules also cover lawyer advertising and soliciting cases from potential clients.
If you search on AVVO.com for "workers' compensation lawyers, Charlotte, NC" you will see that at least two lawyers who pop up on the resulting search have been disciplined by the State Bar for violating a Rule of Professional Conduct. The lawyers were allowed to post a comment defending themselves there on AVVO, but if you want the full story, you can look them up on the NC State Bar web site, under the"disciplinary" tab.
Why Does it Matter?
A number of lawyers in NC have been censured by the Bar for violating the advertising rules, which are somewhat complex, and in my view, an advertising violation is certainly not as bad as a violation pertaining to misuse of a client's money or property. But still, getting tagged by the Bar for violating the advertising rules, which are laid out in black and white for anyone to read, suggests an inattention to detail that one hopes does not carry over into the lawyer's representation of a client. Lawyers are highly educated professionals-- we spent four years getting a college degree, then three years attending law school, in order to sit for the Bar Exam after graduation, which tests us on multiple areas of law over a two day period. We also have to pass a separate bar exam just on the Rules of Professional Conduct. So every lawyer is well aware of these Rules, and knows how important it is to follow them. For that reason, when a lawyer gets disciplined by the Bar for not following the Rules, it is a fair question to ask: Should I trust that lawyer with my legal matter, when he obviously cannot follow all the rules governing his professional conduct?
For more information, go to the web site of the NC State Bar and scroll through the disciplinary cases against NC lawyers. Some of the things in those cases are quite shocking!