Prior to doing professional/occupational license defense I first started practicing law as a member of the Mississippi State Bar. That was way back in 2008 with the Harrison County, MS Public Defender’s officer. Back then I did not have to worry about the most common reason for attorney disbarment in the United States, misuse of client funds. Client trust accounting mismanagement is the biggest culprit for attorney discipline. I, like every other attorney that has a trust account, keep a tight accounting of all client funds down to the penny. Attorney disbarment is actually pretty rare and only two attorneys have been disbarred in the state of North Carolina in 2019 as of today.
Although attorney disbarment is uncommon, I have had the displeasure of watching an attorney give up his law license in a Biloxi, MS courtroom. The attorney, who will remain nameless, was not particularly well respected at that time. He was a criminal defense attorney whose office was across the street from the courthouse, prime space for any attorney. What seemed to be the reason for this attorney’s downfall was his social life. He started to socialize with his clients who were heavily involved in the drug trade and prostitution. As the saying goes, ‘when you lay down with dogs, you get fleas’ and this attorney was covered in fleas. He incurred an addiction to crack cocaine and was arrested in a motel across from the Gulf of Mexico. This attorney had an incident related to cocaine twenty years prior to this as well.
My reason for bringing this up is that attorneys, especially litigators, are more susceptible to substance abuse issues than a substantial number of other professions. An attorney’s chance of not being diligent in the representation of clients increases if a substance abuse issue goes unchecked. Thankfully, the North Carolina State Bar has a great program called the Lawyer Assistance Program, or LAP, and the North Carolina Bar Association has a program called BarCares that also offers assistance to attorneys that are in need of substance abuse help.
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