The Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility (OLPR) Board has issued its annual report this week and there seems to be no substantial change in the rate of identified unethical conduct among Minnesota lawyers, judging from the data in the report. That is, the data validate our sense that the vast majority of Minnesota lawyers are honest, hard-working, competent, and ethical.
Roughly 1,100 complaints were lodged against Minnesota lawyers in 2017. Of these, based on the data of previous years, it seems that well under 10% will ultimately result in findings of unethical conduct. Since we have about 20,000 practicing Minnesota lawyers, that’s a pretty small number of ethical violations (though, as with crime and negligence, we all recognize that reported instances are not comprehensive of all of the misconduct (and maybe not even most of it)).
Predictably, the two biggest missteps of Minnesota lawyers appear to be (1) failure to communicate and (2) lack of diligence (though it is possible that the OLPR might have a bias toward finding these violations rather than say, incompetence, which can be the root cause of failures to communicate and lack of diligence).
Ironically, the OLPR itself might be considered to have received the most criticism in its own report, since it has long been criticized for the length of time it takes to resolve ethics complaints and it did worse in 2017 than in the previous year (see the last paragraph on page 3). The OLPR attributes this to staff turn-over and other causes, adopting optimism about progress in the year to come. Of course, all annual reports communicate enthusiasm and optimism. Let’s hope that the optimism here is borne out.