If you’re like most of the 102,000 members of The Florida Bar, your ethics and professionalism are a credit to the legal community. You’re a bit fuzzy on the intricacies of the lawyer regulation system, but that’s just fine with you.
Michelle Suskauer There are reasons, though, why every lawyer should understand the Bar’s procedures for investigating and prosecuting disciplinary complaints. In a series of stories over the next few issues, the News will explain how this system works, from the initial complaint through the investigation, review, trial and, ultimately, a final discipline order by the Florida Supreme Court.
The Florida Bar is unique in how it disciplines its members. The process can be scary, but it’s important that we understand it — first, to avoid pitfalls in our own practices, but also to appreciate the ways we are protecting the public and the lawyers who practice in Florida.
The Bar expends resources, staff, and thousands of hours on the disciplinary process. More than 35 percent of the Bar’s operating expenses goes to lawyer regulation — that’s more than $15 million in the 2015-16 budget year.
The Bar devotes 123 full-time employees at its Tallahassee headquarters and five branch offices to this process, and that’s on top of the many dedicated volunteer members who help ensure that lawyers who stray are rehabilitated, punished or, in the worse cases, removed from the profession.