Three Common Issues That Lead to Ethics Complaints for Lawyers

January 21, 2022
Jay Stafford

Four core values

Many lawyers are caught off guard when they find themselves facing an ethics complaint. It could be a simple mistake that caused the complaint or the failure to realize that they were doing anything wrong. Unfortunately, even an unintentional violation can carry serious consequences. 

Even if the complaint is successfully resolved, the time and expense involved can take a toll on your practice. Ultimately, your reputation and ability to practice law are at stake. If you are a lawyer who has been charged with an ethical violation, the best thing you can do is contact a Maryland employment lawyer who can help you navigate the complaint process. 

1. Failure to Communicate

Lawyers have an ethical obligation to keep their clients reasonably informed regarding the status of their case and promptly inform them of any developments that require their decision or consent. While you and your client may disagree as to what is considered “prompt” or “reasonable,” failing to keep them satisfactorily updated as to the status of their case can quickly lead to an ethics complaint. Even failing to return phone calls or respond to emails can result in a complaint. A Maryland employment lawyer with experience in handling lawyer complaints can provide you with valuable guidance for avoiding these types of complaints in your practice. Of course, they can also help you respond to the complaint should you receive one. 

2. Neglect and Procrastination

Another common issue that can lead to an ethical complaint is when the client feels that their lawyer has neglected their case or has not handled the matter promptly. Most lawyers are incredibly busy people with heavy workloads that can often be difficult to predict. This can inadvertently lead to you falling behind on handling your cases. And while you may not have jeopardized your client’s interests, it can cause resentment that can prompt an ethics complaint. A Maryland employment lawyer can help you respond to any complaint that alleges that you have neglected your client’s case to their detriment. 

3. Fee Disputes and Invoicing Issues

Most clients are aware that lawyers are expensive, but “sticker shock” can set in when they receive your bill. Failing to send out regular invoices or sending invoices that lack an adequate description of the work you performed can increase your chances that your client will be unhappy with the bill. Many ethics complaints are then filed when the lawyer refuses to attempt to resolve the matter but instead demands payment in full. 

The good news is that you can often avoid an ethics complaint by working with your client. Start by helping them understand the bill, but don’t be afraid to waive some fees, set up a payment plan, or otherwise negotiate the balance due. At the end of the day, any fees you agree to waive will likely be far cheaper than the harm caused by an ethical complaint. If you do have a complaint filed against you, you should contact a Maryland employment lawyer as soon as possible for help. 

Facing an Ethics Complaint? Contact Maryland Employment Lawyer J.W. Stafford 

If you have been charged with an ethics violation, Maryland employment lawyer J.W. Stafford can help you take immediate action to protect your license. Contact us today by calling 410-514-6099 to schedule a consultation to discuss your case and how we can help.