The State Bar of California has a bag of tools that personify well a proverbial carrot-and-stick approach.
On the one hand, many individuals who apply themselves diligently during an arduous period of study are rewarded with a coveted professional license to practice law in the state.
On the other hand, those found to be subsequently lacking in competence and/or good faith often get whacked by that above-cited stick.
That can mean many things. It might result in an oral reprimand. A sanctioned attorney can be fined. He or she might be ordered to complete further educational requirements. Client restitution is frequently mandated by bar officials. License suspension is also a common occurrence for lawyerly malfeasance or negligence.
There is this, too, an exaction intended as the ultimate punishment for attorney misconduct viewed as especially egregious: disbarment.
Given its severity, disbarment is a state bar enforcement tool that is selectively applied in only truly singular exceptions. It is a last-resort outcome for offenders not deemed to merit a second chance.
It is certainly reasonable to assume that a disbarment edict seldom issues. In fact, though (and given California’s status as the state with the most practicing attorneys in the country), disbarment outcomes are announced with some frequency, taking effect in virtually every county across the state.
That is instantly revealed by a State Bar of California website page underscoring disbarments. It prominently notes that scores of California attorneys are disbarred, and for broad-based offenses. Those range widely from improper management of client funds, failure to obey court orders and making misleading statements to lack of client communication, failure to professionally act in a matter and committing various acts of “moral turpitude.”
California clients do not expect the legal professionals they rely upon to be infallible in every aspect. They do reasonably expect their attorneys to act with due competence and in good faith when representing them, though, which is an expectation that bar authorities solidly endorse.
Questions or concerns regarding an attorney’s conflict of interest, ethics violation, practice incompetence or a linked matter can be addressed to a proven pro-victims’ legal malpractice team.