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Do Lawyers Have Lawyers? What Should I Do If a Bar Complaint Is Filed

What Should I Do if A Bar Complaint is Filed

Where do lawyers turn when trouble arises, and a complaint is filed with the bar association? A lawyer’s reputation means everything, and an ethics complaint or a claim of professional malpractice can destroy years of hard work and dedication to building your career. Plakas Mannos is uniquely qualified to help lawyers and judges with disciplinary investigations by bar associations and Ohio’s Disciplinary Counsel. 

Attorneys David L. Dingwell and Peter T. Cahoon have decades of combined experience with Ohio’s disciplinary process. Both Dingwell and Cahoon served several years as members of the Stark County and Akron Bar Association’s Certified Grievance Committees. In addition, Dingwell served for nearly a decade on the Ohio Board of Professional Conduct and was Chairman of that body in 2017 and 2018. 

With their combined experience, Dingwell and Cahoon have participated in every facet of the attorney ethics process and have the expertise required to understand the issues and complexities facing attorneys and judicial officers that are the subject of disciplinary investigation. Having served in the investigative, litigation, and determination roles, Dingwell and Cahoon are uniquely positioned to help attorneys navigate what can be the most significant event of a lawyer’s career: facing the potential loss or suspension of their license to practice law. 

Do I Really Need a Lawyer to Assist Me

Do I Really Need a Lawyer to Assist Me? 

Many lawyers that receive a letter of inquiry after a grievance is filed are embarrassed and reluctant to seek legal counsel. Others believe that because they themselves have legal training, they are able to respond just as effectively without assistance. Others falsely assume that if they retain counsel to assist them, it will give the appearance to the disciplinary authority that there is a problem, or that the complaint has merit. 

The truth is that having the assistance of an attorney with expertise in the disciplinary process can be invaluable. Dingwell and Cahoon have confidentially represented numerous attorneys and judges in responding to ethics inquiries. Their knowledge and insight into the initial investigation stage and what disciplinary authorities are looking for will best guide the response in order to resolve potential inquiries or mitigate the potential sanction that may be imposed. 

Isn’t It Better to Just Not Respond and Wait Until There Is Actually a Complaint Filed Against Me?

Absolutely not! Attorneys licensed to practice in Ohio have an obligation to cooperate with disciplinary authorities that are conducting an investigation. If you receive a letter of inquiry from the Ohio Disciplinary Counsel or a certified bar association grievance committee that is requesting information from you, it is your responsibility to promptly respond and cooperate with that request. If you do not do so, the failure to respond and cooperate is, in and of itself, a violation of the Professional Conduct Rules and can lead to discipline even if the underlying complaint is not meritorious. 

An even better reason to immediately respond and cooperate is that the Ohio Rules for the Government of the Bar provides for confidentiality of all grievance proceedings prior to a complaint being filed and certified for probable cause. Therefore, in many situations, by promptly responding and cooperating with the investigation, particularly if the grievance has no merit, the entire incident remains confidential and is not public record. 

Violating a Professional Conduct Rule

If I Violated a Professional Conduct Rule, Won’t the Sanction Be the Same Regardless of Whether I Have an Attorney Representing Me?

Likely not. Unless you have expertise with the disciplinary process, representing yourself before the Ohio Board of Professional Conduct and the Ohio Supreme Court can lead to a worse result and a harsher sanction. 

Having the assistance of legal counsel with expertise in the disciplinary process will help you maximize your chances to resolve complaint, limit the actual sanction, or at least mitigate the extent of the potential sanction where a rule of professional conduct was violated. With years of experience in the disciplinary system in Ohio, both Dingwell and Cahoon can work with you to develop the best strategy for your defense. 

Get the Assistance Needed When an Attorney is Reported to the Bar

Understanding and navigating the disciplinary process in Ohio is crucial for attorneys and judges that become the target of an ethics inquiry. With our experience, our attorneys are prepared to assist you with protecting the professional license and professional reputation that you worked so hard to achieve. Contact us for your disciplinary process needs. 



About the Author

Headshot of David L. Dingwell

David Dingwell is a partner at Plakas Mannos where he provides ethics and professional conduct advisory services, as well as probate, estate, and trust administration and planning.

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