News and Information
July 31, 2019

Bar Disciplinary System Holds Annual Conference

The 39th Annual Disciplinary Conference in Glen Allen last week brought together over 200 lawyers and lay people who collectively work to maintain the integrity of the legal profession in Virginia.

For two days, members of the 17 disciplinary district committees, the Disciplinary Board, the Committee on Lawyer Discipline, and Bar leadership worked to improve the process that disciplines lawyers in Virginia in order to protect the public.

“We are privileged to be a self-regulated profession,” said Bar President Marni E. Byrum during her remarks on Friday. “It is a very special privilege, and your work on the district committees and the Disciplinary Board is the very heart and soul of our ability to maintain that self-regulation.”

Bar Counsel Renu M. Brennan discussed this year’s disciplinary cases and statistics, including the number of complaints received and sanctions issued, and proposed changes to the disciplinary procedure. Other interactive panels analyzed rules of professional conduct and the threshold of evidence in disciplinary proceedings and the framework considered when assessing sanctions.  

The Disciplinary Conference serves as continuing education for returning members of the committees and board, as well as orientation for new members. Panels of Bar prosecutors and long-serving board members help attendees from disparate parts of the state develop a level of consistency in the disciplinary process, and members participate in vignette sessions where they discuss hypothetical disciplinary cases in a mixed group.

On Thursday, the Honorable David W. Lannetti of the Norfolk Circuit Court spoke about the Professionalism Course that all new lawyers are required to take in Virginia and challenged members of the disciplinary system to help lawyers distinguish between professionalism and the rules. “Ethics represents the minimum level of acceptable conduct below which they can be subject to discipline,” he said. “Professionalism, on the other hand, is aspirational and involves conduct well above the minimum ethical standards.” 

Local disciplinary district committees afford Virginia lawyers a valuable way to be involved in bar governance. Operating in subcommittees, they review bar complaints in their jurisdiction and determine whether there is sufficient evidence of a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct, and if so, what the appropriate disposition on the complaint is.

New members are solicited beginning in October in Virginia Lawyer, in emails, and online. Applicants send a brief résumé and short statement and are nominated by their local representatives on Bar Council. 

Once a lawyer or lay member has served on the local committees, they are eligible to serve on the Disciplinary Board, which handles the most severe cases of lawyer misconduct, and the Committee on Lawyer Discipline, which oversees the disciplinary process, including the Bar’s investigation and prosecution of complaints.

“It’s a mandatory bar,” said Byrum. “You don’t have a choice. You must belong. But you do have a choice as to whether you choose to be engaged. And those of you in this room have chosen to be engaged – and not in a small way.”

Learn more about the myriad ways to be involved in the Virginia State Bar.

 

Disciplinary Conference 2019

Updated: Jul 31, 2019