Office of Bar Counsel, 0819 WYBJ, Vol. 42 No. 5. 12

AuthorMark W. Gifford, Wyoming State Bar Office of Bar Counsel Cheyenne, Wyoming
PositionVol. 42 5 Pg. 12

Office of Bar Counsel

Vol. 42 No. 5 Pg. 12

Wyoming Bar Journal

August, 2019

Are Younger Lawyers More Likely to Be Disciplined?

Mark W. Gifford, Wyoming State Bar Office of Bar Counsel Cheyenne, Wyoming

With all the hubbub about short attention spans and other unflattering stereotyping of Millennials and Gen Zers, one may be tempted to wonder how lawyers under the age of 40 can manage to get through the day without committing malpractice or a serious breach of professional responsibility. This "sky is falling" point of view held by too many "seasoned" lawyers merits fact-checking against our experience in Wyoming.

Fact: In Wyoming, lawyers age 70 or older are just as likely to receive discipline as those under the age of 40. Since 2011, lawyers 70 or over have been subjected to discipline 9 times—2 by private reprimand; 3 by public censure; 3 have been suspended; 1 has been disbarred. By comparison, lawyers under the age of 40 have been disciplined 10 times—5 private reprimands; 4 public censures; 1 suspension; 0 disbarments. When lawyers age 70 and over are disciplined, the sanction is likely to be more serious than for their under-40 cohorts. Only two lawyers under the age of 30 have been disciplined. Both were private reprimands.

Since 2011, nearly two-thirds of the disciplinary orders issued in Wyoming have been against lawyers between the ages of 40 and 59. Of 10 disbarments, 8 have been lawyers in their 40s and 50s. Nearly two-thirds of suspended lawyers fall in this age range.

One is left to ponder why lawyers in the "prime" of their legal careers are most frequently disciplined. As I approach 9 years as Bar Counsel and 38 years as a lawyer, I have some thoughts.

Young lawyers have fewer opportunities to screw up. A larger proportion of young lawyers are in law firms, where they are more likely to be supervised or at least mentored by more experienced colleagues. When younger lawyers do err, their mistakes tend to be less consequential and, correspondingly, less likely to draw a com-plaint to my office.

The vast majority...

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