A grievance filed against a Texas attorney alleging ethical violations is serious. A complaint, even if later it is found to lack merit, can have adverse and lasting effects on your legal career. The best course of action is to take proactive measures to avoid ethical violations and client grievances.
As a licensed attorney, you are familiar with the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct, which among other things, sets certain ethical behavior standards for client-lawyer relationships.
Rule 1.01 requires competent and diligent representation of clients. The rule specifies that when representing a client, "a lawyer shall not:
- neglect a legal matter entrusted to the lawyer; or
- frequently fail to carry out completely the obligations that the lawyer owes to a client or clients."
Tex. Disciplinary Rules Prof’l Conduct R. 1.01(b). The term "neglect" is defined as "inattentiveness involving a conscious disregard for the responsibilities owed to a client or clients." Id. R. 1.01(c).
Rule 1.02 on scope and objectives of representation requires a lawyer to "abide by a client's decisions" concerning the general methods of representation, whether to accept a settlement offer, and in criminal case matters. Tex. Disciplinary Rules Prof’l Conduct R. 1.02(b). The rule carves out certain exceptions, such as criminal, fraudulent, or unethical behavior.
Rule 1.03 requires a lawyer to "keep a client reasonably informed about the status of a matter and promptly comply with reasonable requests for information." Tex. Disciplinary Rules Prof’l Conduct R. 1.03(a). Lawyers must maintain a certain level of communication with their clients, and the clients should have sufficient information to make intelligent, informed decisions about their legal matters.
Avoiding Ethical Violations for Texas Attorneys
These three rules of professional conduct as pertaining to the client-lawyer relationship seem simple on their face; however, these rules give rise to pitfalls that could potentially lead to clients filing a grievance complaint with the state bar.
Even the most skilled and experienced attorney could struggle to pursue the representation of a client in as diligently as needed, or that the client feels is needed. When a lawyer in handling back-to-back trials or nearing a deadline for an appellate brief, it may be difficult to timely respond to client demands or requests for information.
Creating office procedures designed to address these potential issues before there is a problem is one way to be proactive in avoiding ethical violations. The following are some procedures that you can employ:
Set up a deadline control system to ensure that projects and case needs will not come up last minute and demand your undivided attention for days or weeks. Your deadline control system can be set up to meet your needs and can include multiple notices of an upcoming deadline weeks in advance.
During times when you know you will be especially busy and hindered in your availability, consider letting certain clients know. This may be particularly important for demanding clients and those dealing with highly sensitive legal matters like child custody or bankruptcy. You can send a simple letter giving a case update and notice of your upcoming busy period. Setting the expectation that you will be unavailable for a certain period unless there is an emergency is better than ignoring a client during that time.
Send a copy of every correspondence you have on your client's behalf to the client. Receiving these letters and emails helps keep the client abreast of developments in their case.
Effectively use your monthly billing statements as client communication. Send detailed statements of the work you and your staff have done on the client's behalf. Be specific and include all case activities. Even if the billing statement includes item your office does not bill for, then note that activity as no-charge.
Our Firm is Prepared to Defend Your Law License
We are experienced Legal Malpractice Defense Attorneys. The results-driven lawyers at BERTOLINO LLP are well-versed in successfully dealing with formal complaints against Texas attorneys.
Our firm is prepared to defend your law license against claims of:
- Any claim for Legal Malpractice
- Violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct
- Breach of Fiduciary Duty
- Lack of Due Diligence
- Abuse of Process
- Statute of Limitations Complaints or Missed Deadlines
- Conflicts of Interest
- Ineffective Assistance of Counsel
We are proud to be the lawyer's lawyer.
The fact that so many lawyers have trusted us to handle formal complaints with the State Bar of Texas or the Board of Law Examiners speaks volumes. We know that fellow-attorneys expect the highest standards of professionalism and care.
If you are facing a formal complaint against your law license, we understand how much is at stake. We invite you to meet with us for a case evaluation. You'll meet with one of our experienced Legal Malpractice Defense Attorneys to discuss the details of the allegations filed against you.
“Our law firm helps professionals, like you, keep their licenses when those licenses are under attack by a state agency or board.” -Tony R. Bertolino, Managing Partner