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Attorney Ethics

Communication Is Key to Avoid State Bar Grievance

Texas Attorneys are governed by a set of ethical guidelines called the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct. These rules are enforced by the Chief Disciplinary Counsel’s office, which is a division of the State Bar of Texas. A disciplinary action against an attorney can result in the loss of the attorneys license to practice law, either temporarily or permanently. Other sanctions that do not involve the suspension of an attorney’s law license are also possible.

I, Keith Leuty, spent the past 6 years working as an Attorney for the Chief Disciplinary Counsel’s office, but now I have re-entered private practice as a named partner here at Barnett & Leuty, PC. This blog is intended to provide insights into the disciplinary process.

The law office of Barnett & Leuty, PC provides representation for Texas attorneys who find themselves in potential trouble with the State Bar. We welcome your questions. Please visit our website at http://www.civil-law.com for more information.

In 6 years I reviewed more than 15,000 grievances against Texas attorneys. One of the most common complaints that clients, (or former clients) had was that their attorney did not communicate with them.

Sometimes this meant that the attorney did not return their phone calls or e-mails, and sometimes this meant that the attorney did not take the time to answer their specific questions. Many times clients may be confused by the legal process and/or the ramifications of the choices they are facing.

Rule 1.03 governs attorney communication. It is split into two parts:

(a). A lawyer shall keep a client reasonably informed about the status of a matter and promptly comply with reasonable requests for information.

(b). A lawyer shall explain a matter to the extent reasonably necessary to permit the client to make informed decisions regarding the representation.

The key element is the “reasonableness” factor which is included in both subsections. It is hard to pin down exactly what is reasonable and what is unreasonable. Quite honestly, some clients have more questions than others, and call more frequently.

The safest course of action is to return all phone calls or requests for information as soon as possible. When necessary, a certified letter may even be needed if the attorney believes that he or she might some day need proof of compliance with Rule 1.03.