I have been practicing law in North Carolina for 35 years. Based on my experience, here are a few tips for younger practitioners on how to avoid trouble with the NC State Bar.
Tip # 1: Do NOT ignore your client. We practice law in the real world. From time to time all attorneys have a difficult client who contacts his/her attorney excessively. At some point, the human inclination to avoid the client arises. At a minimum an attorney must keep the client updated as to the status of the case and answer the client’s questions. In those instances when it seems impossible to satisfy the client, it is better for the attorney to withdraw from representation rather than ignore the client.
Tip # 2: If you ever feel the desire to drink alcohol during the work day, seek professional help. That desire is a warning sign of a deeper problem that should be addressed and not ignored. Drinking alcohol while at work and practicing law are incompatible.
Tip # 3: If you ever feel the desire to use illegal drugs, seek professional help. That desire is a warning sign of a deeper problem that should be addressed and not ignored. Using illegal drugs and practicing law are incompatible. Further, buying and using such drugs is illegal and the attorney has taken an oath to uphold the laws of North Carolina.
Tip # 4: If you ever think about taking money from your trust account for personal use, seek professional help. That thought is way more than a warning sign of a deeper problem – it is a sign that you have a serous problem. Seek help immediately.
Tip # 5: If the NC State Bar sends you letter, do NOT ignore it. Drop everything. Prepare a detailed response to the State Bar. And, consult with a trusted legal colleague to get a professional, objective point of view on your reply before you mail it.
In my opinion, attorneys who get into serious trouble with the NC State Bar do not do so because of lack of intelligence or lack of familiarity with the NC Rules of Professional Conduct. Rather, it is my opinion that attorneys who get into serious trouble do so because of impaired judgment caused by a personal problem such as depression, alcohol abuse, substance abuse, or a combination thereof.
Practicing law is incredibly stressful. If you ever see warning signs of depression, alcohol abuse, or substance abuse, seek professional help. This will not only help you, it will also help your clients and our profession as a whole.
DISCLAIMER. The views expressed in this blog are my personal opinion. I am NOT speaking on behalf of the NC State Bar.