Beyond words: Demonstrate ethical standards through Bar grievance committee service

Beyond words: Demonstrate ethical standards through Bar grievance committee service

For any lawyer who has felt challenged by a lack of public esteem for the profession, there’s a solution.

Serving on a grievance committee is a practical and productive way to demonstrate that lawyers are held to the highest ethical standards.

Brian Burgoon, a 24-year Board of Governors member, notes in the May/June 2024 edition of The Florida Bar Journal that the overarching goal of the lawyer regulation system is to protect the public, and that self-discipline creates a unique responsibility.

“This sets the legal profession apart from most other professions, occupations, and industries and imposes on lawyers an important duty to ensure that they — and other lawyers — comply with the professional and ethical standards expected of them.”

Grievance committees serve a critical role in the process, Burgoon and other board members note in a recent invitation to serve.

“In particular, citizens, judges, or other lawyers may file complaints about lawyer misconduct to The Florida Bar. Florida Bar staff attorneys then submit these cases to local grievance committees to investigate the complaint and determine whether there is probable cause to believe the lawyer engaged in misconduct under the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar.”

There are grievance committees in each of Florida’s 20 judicial circuits; some of the more populated circuits have as many as 11 grievance committees. All members of the local grievance committees are volunteers and serve three-year terms.

Service on a grievance committee “is an incredible opportunity to be involved in the lawyer discipline process,” the invitation notes.

“You not only provide a valuable public service in reviewing complaints and evidence, but you gain a network of other dedicated professionals in the legal system.”

Additionally, as Burgoon has observed, “Lawyer discipline also exists to safeguard the legal system’s integrity, to achieve justice, and to educate others with the aim of preventing potential misconduct profession-wide.”

More information and a grievance committee interest form is available here.

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