Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court had the ultimate authority regarding discipline for attorneys in Massachusetts. Cases against attorneys, since 1974, are heard by The Board of Bar Overseers and prosecuted by the Office of the Bar Counsel. The 2016 Report to the SJC Bar Counsel provides us with insight as to who the serious cases were against.
Again, putting this discussion into context, there are approximately 59,472 lawyers registered in Massachusetts. Notwithstanding the nominal number of lawyers disciplined (discussed below), the overwhelmingly vast majority are hard-working advocates for their clients, or the various governmental entities they represent.
How Many Lawyers were Disciplined in Massachusetts In 2016?
125. Again, given the number of active and inactive Massachusetts lawyers, over 70,000, this is miniscule. Nevertheless, let’s look at some of the findings.
Was the number an increase over the prior fiscal year? Nominally.
What was the breakdown? 29 Attorneys received private admonitions and 96 received public discipline. 45 lawyers received a suspension, with 8 being suspended indefinitely and 3 resigning. 20 Massachusetts lawyers were disbarred.
Is There Any Pattern or Area of Law Receiving More Disciplinary Action?
The following is a selection of the top areas of discipline for Massachusetts attorneys in the 2016 report:
16 Real Estate lawyers were disciplined: 5 disbarred, 6 were suspended, 3 received public reprimand, and 2 were admonished.
14 Criminal Defense lawyers were disciplined: 1 disbarred, 7 were suspended, 1 received public reprimand, and 5 were admonished.
13 lawyers were disciplined for their Civil Practice: 1 disbarred, 4 were suspended, 4 received public reprimand, and 4 were admonished
13 lawyers were disciplined for Personal Injury representation: 3 disbarred, 6 were suspended, 2 received public reprimand, and 4 were admonished
12 Domestic Relations (divorce) lawyers were disciplined: 1 disbarred, 5 were suspended, 2 received public reprimand, and 4 were admonished
10 Estate practice lawyers were disciplined: 3 disbarred, 1 was suspended, 1 received public reprimand, and 5 were admonished
Is there a Correlation Between Discipline and Legal Malpractice?
Yes. If an attorney has been disciplined there is a likelihood that there is a potential legal malpractice claim in Massachusetts. The facts, of course, vary from case to case. Significantly, we also evaluate cases for damages as well. If your attorney was negligent but your damages are minimal, we could not take that case on a contingency bases.
Is the above data consistent with the inquiries we receive from prospective clients? Likely. We don’t keep records of inquiries or calculate them the way the Board of Bar Overseers does. We do, however, hear from victims of legal malpractice frequently. While we can only represent a small percentage of those victims, we note that civil and personal injury compromises over a quarter of the disciplines and, anecdotally perhaps, reflects both the calls we get from prospective clients and the cases we ultimately prosecute on behalf of victims of legal malpractice in Massachusetts.
Burns & Jain Free Legal Massachusetts Malpractice Evaluation
Call Neil Burns and Roshan Jain for a free evaluation of your Massachusetts legal malpractice claim. Attorney Burns has 32 years of trial experience in Massachusetts; Attorney Jain has 15 years of trial experience. Call 617-227-7423 for a free consultation.
Most cases are taken on a contingency – if you don’t resolve your case, there is no fee.