South Carolina Lawyer
SC Lawyer, May 2008, #3.
South Carolina LawyerMay 2008 Disciplinary opinions published in the Advance Sheets represent only a small portion of the work of the Commission on Lawyer Conduct. In fact, about six percent of all grievances filed against lawyers involve misconduct serious enough to warrant public discipline. The vast majority of grievances that are not dismissed are resolved confidentially. A letter of caution and an admonition are two common ways in which the Commission can conclude a matter confidentially without dismissing it.
A letter of caution is a written warning, rather than a sanction. (RLDE 1.0(r)). An investigative panel of the Commission usually issues a letter of caution when three conditions are met: (1) the conduct involved is not serious misconduct; (2) there is no harm to the client or to the public; and (3) the lawyer has no relevant disciplinary history. A letter of caution is a confidential resolution and is only considered disciplinary history if the same rules are violated in the future. If a grievance cannot be dismissed, a letter of caution is the best result for a lawyer who needs to be more careful about compliance with the Rules of Professional Conduct.
An admonition is a sanction imposed by the Commission or the Court "in cases of minor misconduct, when there is little or no injury to the public, the legal system, or the profession." RLDE 1.0(a). An admonition is confidential unless the Court imposes it after a hearing on formal charges.
Because letters of caution and admonitions are not published, their utility as general preventative tools is limited. This column has been prepared to give Bar members an inside look at the types of complaints that are resolved confidentially. Of course, the two most common reasons lawyers receive letters of caution and admonitions are failure to adequately communicate with clients and failure to act diligently. Otherwise, there are four trouble spots that frequently result in letters of caution or admonitions.
Violations of the advertising and solicitation rules
While nearly 80 percent of all grievances are dismissed, only about five percent of advertising-related grievances are dismissed. That means that most of the complaints that are filed about lawyer advertising and solicitation...