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How A Lawyer’s Age Can Affect Bar Discipline starstarstarstarstar

New and seasoned lawyers alike are subject to the same disciplinary actions for Bar Association violations. Can an attorney’s age affect his or her likelihood to comply with certain rules of the bar?

Attorney John Leighton, founding partner of Leighton Law, was among several attorneys interviewed by Daily Business Review on the topic. They explained that age plays a significant role, particularly when it comes to staying up-to-date on technology and proper mentoring. While technology-related violations are more likely to affect older lawyers, they agreed that a lack of proper mentoring among younger lawyers potentially leads to mistakes.

Technology

Lawyers who do not stay on top of technology possibly find themselves facing disciplinary action. One example is a Florida law firm that missed a deadline to contest an award of attorney fees in 2017 because the email allegedly was caught in a spam filter.

Another example occurred in 2015 when a well-respected, veteran lawyer with several decades of practice experience received nine homework assignments from a federal judge who demanded that the attorney submit the homework assignments “error-free.” The bankruptcy attorney either could not or would not correct his e-filings on a case. He later received a suspension for reportedly paying another attorney $1,000 to complete the homework assignments for him.

Mentoring

Washington Post article provides examples of attorneys who are “inexperienced or overmatched.” One Florida attorney took on a case where a former lawyer missed several filing deadlines, and she herself missed deadlines.

Another lawyer was 208 days late filing his habeas petition in a case involving a death row inmate. The lawyer admitted to the judge that he was “inexperienced in habeas law,” never knew how to determine the deadline and sent the petition to the wrong court.

John Leighton says, “Without mentoring, without good examples, it’s a bit like ‘Lord of the Flies.’ You end up with lesser-skilled lawyers that don’t know when the line is crossed.” He said that while law schools prepare lawyers in ways they didn’t before, it does not necessarily mean that graduates actually know how to practice law.

Mr. Leighton would like to see one extra year of “residency,” where students engage in internships to specialize and develop greater networks for a firmer grasp of the law. He believes everyone needs some mentoring. “The interaction of lawyers is one of the most important aspects of law.”