enter the practice of law, they take an oath to uphold the law and
to follow the standards of ethics established by the Colorado Supreme
Court. An attorney who violates the law and/or those standards is
subject to discipline. In cases involving minor misconduct, an attorney
may be admonished, censured, or placed in a diversion program. In
serious matters, attorneys face suspension of their license to practice
law or disbarment.
The Office of Attorney
Regulation Counsel receives many requests for investigation regarding
conduct that does not constitute a violation of the standards of
ethics. For example, attorneys who have honest disagreements with
their clients about how a case should be handled - or should have
been handled have not engaged in ethical misconduct. Similarly,
an error in judgment is not necessarily unethical conduct. Attorneys,
like everyone else, make mistakes. Only if the mistake constitutes
gross negligence will it be a cause for discipline.
Except for unusual circumstances,
a disagreement over legal fees is not evidence of misconduct. Persons
having fee disputes will usually be referred to a voluntary committee
of the Colorado Bar Association that arbitrates fee disputes. The
CBA committee will attempt to help the parties reach a fair settlement
of the problem.
Finally, there are situations
which a client may find most annoying, but which do not constitute
unethical conduct. An example would be the attorney's failure to
explain fully what is going to happen in the client's case, or the
attorney's failure to respond to each of the client's telephone
calls. Nonetheless, the Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel is
anxious to see that attorneys avoid these situations. The office
will suggest steps that attorneys can take to prevent the recurrence
of communication problems.