Lawyer Accountability

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The legal profession is largely self-regulated, which makes it difficult for bad lawyers to be held accountable to their clients. Lawyers are often exempt from consumer fraud laws and other protections that apply to every other provider of consumer services.

Lawyers claim that they need not be subject to such regulations because they are held accountable by various state Bar rules governing attorney conduct. While there are rules of professional conduct that, for example, prohibit lawyers from making false or misleading statements or control how lawyers may charge fees, such rules are often far less stringent than similar state or federal consumer protection laws. Worse, according to the ABA's own statistics, less than 5% of all disciplinary complaints made against lawyers nationwide result in any formal charges. Even when charges are filed, disciplinary proceedings are often conducted privately and in the rare instances when lawyers were subjected to formal sanction, nearly half received only private reprimands.

Under the current system, the hallmarks of lawyer regulation are leniency and secrecy. Lawyers should be regulated like any other profession. Lawyers have the same capacity for misconduct as any other professionals and can hardly claim to have the best interests of consumers in mind if they repeatedly seek to be exempt from rules and laws designed to protect them.

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