Most professions are governed by a set of concrete rules that the professionals must strictly follow in order to keep practising. To an extent, they also have to adhere to these rules to be model citizens.
As members of the legal profession, lawyers of all kinds are held to the highest esteem by society. This is due to the fact that not only are they among the privileged few who are capable of enforcing the law, but they are also known to be ethical no matter the circumstances.
Any kind of lawyer, say, working in a solicitor firm in London, should follow the policies within the law office. This is one of the conditions required of them so that they can continue operating with the firm and utilising its resources. If found guilty of professional misconduct, they will have to face consequences, either in the form of extension or worse, dismissal from the firm.
In some rare instances, however, the managing and name partners of the firm will have no jurisdiction over misconduct cases. This is only likely to happen when the lawyer commits acts that are so grave that the federal courts need to step in.
Some misconduct cases that require the intervention of the federal courts often deal with moral turpitude. Moral turpitude is defined as any degenerate act that shocks the conscience of the public. Some offenses that are considered as moral turpitudes are voluntary manslaughter and aggravated assault.
In recent times, lawyers accused of moral turpitude have committed fraud — most notably, financial fraud. Fraud is any deceptive action that denies the victims their rights, while also leading to unlawful gain for the perpetrators. Fraud of the financial kind is when a legal representative carelessly or deliberately mismanages their client’s trust accounts.
Suspension or Disbarment
Incidents that occur more than once are reported to the federal court. The lawyer then has to appear in front of a judge, like the clients that they have previously represented had done before them. Normal court proceedings follow, wherein both sides present the facts to the case, and the accused gets the opportunity to defend themselves with their chosen attorney. If proven guilty, they can receive a reprimand, be put on probation or suspension, or be completely disbarred.
Disbarment is when a lawyer is stripped of their right to practise law. This is the most severe penalty a member of the legal profession can receive from the court. In some countries like the United States, lawyers hold licenses to practice in more than one state. So, it is possible for them to continue practising. However, disbarment in one state is likely to lead to disbarment in other states.
Getting disbarred does not mean having to automatically change career paths. It is possible to be reinstated as a practising lawyer. While it is a long and arduous process, it will not matter to a disbarred lawyer who wishes to practise law again.
It should be noted that disbarment is not meant to deprive one of their livelihood, as some people might perceive it to be. Instead, it is a means of protecting others from being harmed by unlawful acts.