This article Website to Include More Info on Lawyers reports on New York’s decision to post more detailed information on attorneys in the court’s On Line Attorney Directory, including law school attended, date the attorney passed the bar and most importantly, the attorney’s past disciplinary record.
We at MyShingle support full disclosure. The public should have an opportunity to learn this basic information about an attorney and may feel too intimidated to ask. In fact, perhaps attorneys should be required to advise clients about the New York website and invite them to corroborate the attorney’s credentials independently.
Having said that, a client might not leave the New York site with completely accurate information. For example, I looked myself up – I could only find my listing by searching my last name rather than my full name. But it’s here. However, I also looked up a good friend of mine whom I know is an incredibly incompetent attorney. For example, he’s shown up late for depositions and court hearings (we’re talking by an hour, not just minutes), resulting in default judgments against his clients, he’s been the subject of a couple of fee arbitrations and recently, had to pay a somewhat hefty sanction for filing a frivolous suit. Yet none of this is reflected in his bar listing because there’s never been a formal bar action against him.
Still, the New York listings are a start. Yes, I’m sure there are a handful of unfortunate cases where an attorney has faced an unjust bar action and whose reputation may be tarnished by the public listing. But there’s no reason that the attorney could not preemptively address the matter by voluntarily disclosing a discliplinary action to a client from the outset. I don’t think, for example, that a client would decine to retain an otherwise well-recommended attorney who’s been disciplined for offending a judge while vigorously representing a client.
Finally, those of us attorneys take our Professional Code of Conduct seriously and try hard to adhere to the rules (even the stupid ones!) ought to see some reward for our effort. It’s not right that lawyers with multiple violations or non-attorneys posing as lawyers ought to be able to beat out attorneys who try to do what’s right. And if publicizing bar listings gives more ethical attorneys another way to attract clients, then I’m all for it (but please, David, don’t remind me of this posting if I’m ever disciplined some time down the road because I’ll probably be regretting everything I wrote)