Professional Disciplinary Proceedings for Lawyers, Judges and Physicians Unfortunately, many professionals facing disciplinary action before their licensing boards fail to recognize that actual discipline is only one small step in the overall disciplinary process. Whether you’re a medical professional, a lawyer or even a judge, certain violations may be considered of such gravity as to result in immediate or long-term collateral effects on the individual’s career. It can impact a physician’s health care provider status, staff privileges, other staff memberships, disciplinary status with other states, and private practice or employment. For an attorney, it can have immediate ramifications for their practice and revenue stream. And for a judge, the most significant impact may be to their reputation and loss of respect within the legal community.
While certain violations may not cause the individual to suffer severe or long-term consequences, others can cause serious disruptions of their practice due to the collateral effects of the disciplinary event. The key to surviving a disciplinary event is to know the full ramifications of license discipline and, where available, take proactive steps to minimize the effect of any discipline that might be imposed. A failure to recognize and appreciate the effect discipline can have on the individual’s practice can have severe repercussions for that professional and his or her livelihood.
Certain areas of legal and medical practice tend to generate more complaints. Oncologists, Pulmonologists, Urologists and Obstetrician/gynecologists the top four medical practitioners who face a claim every year. Among attorneys, the top two practice areas that face malpractice claims are real estate attorneys, followed by personal injury lawyers, criminal defense and family/divorce lawyers. For judges, the majority of removals involve misconduct entirely related to the judges’ duties or power. Regardless of trends or any commonality these individuals share, the one simple shared factor is the inevitable disruption of their everyday professional and personal lives as they grapple to respond and defend against these complaints.
So what do you do if you get a call from a disciplinary agency?
First, sit down and methodically document everything you can remember related to the incident in question. Look at your call records. Review your calendar. Gather any notes you may have taken. Scour your emails and text messages for relevant communications. Collect any correspondence or case records. Get prepared to dig in deep.
Next, call your attorney; ideally one who is experienced in handling professional disciplinary actions. Provide full disclosure to your attorney, and be prepared to do the same with the disciplinary agency.
Open and respond to each piece of correspondence and email communication you receive from the disciplinary agency. Pay close attention to every deadline – the worst possible outcome would be to allow disciplinary action to be rendered by default.
Now allow your lawyer to advocate on your behalf and don’t get in the way. Whenever possible, let them handle responses to the disciplinary board or licensing agency. Don’t accept meetings without your counsel present. Of course, you need to stay involved, but the insulation and objectivity offered by a legal team are paramount in surviving these matters.
There is an enormous amount at stake, and at Breen & Pugh Law, we’ve seen hundreds of clients through this challenging process and to a positive result. Often, we’re able to negotiate a mutually agreeable alternative to disciplinary action, such as agreeing for the client to attend remedial programs, such as ethics course, professionalism courses, advertising rule workshops, stress management programs, or even treatment for alcohol or chemical dependency and mental health counseling.