Feeling Ostracized During BBO Investigation

I am a general practice attorney in a small firm. Following a complaint made to the BBO by an angry former client, I now find myself in the midst of a protracted investigatory and disciplinary process. My error was real enough but in my opinion was minor. More than anything else it reflected my depression, from which I have since begun to recover. Since the BBO process began, I have been acutely aware that other attorneys distance themselves from me, or perhaps don’t know what to say or believe. This only compounds my guilt over my mistake and its impact on others. I don’t know where to turn.

While the BBO has the important responsibility of protecting consumers, the individual attorney’s journey through the process can be painful and arduous. Typically, he or she has to cope with a great sense of shame and isolation from peers, in addition to the humbling experience of recognizing poor past choices. When there is a disbarment or suspension, there is also the matter of finding new employment that can not be considered legal practice, and adjusting to the social and professional stigma. As time goes on, it may become difficult to avoid bitterness and cynicism.

Our experience is that very few attorneys mean to do anything wrong, but rather, allowed themselves to be swept into inappropriate actions, often in the context of mental health, interpersonal, or addiction problems (including compulsive gambling). It is completely appropriate for you to involve yourself in counseling/psychotherapy, and we would be glad to assist you in arranging that. We also offer a twice-monthly Professional Conduct Group where lawyers in your position can give each other support, understanding, information, confrontation when needed, and help one another see the light at the end of the tunnel. For more information, call us.

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