What are the most common ethics violations for lawyers?

Misbah Jalal Siddiqui

What are the most common ethics violations for lawyers?

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Ethics Violations

Ethics violations can result in sanctions and even being disbarred for lawyers, so it’s important to be aware of the most common ways lawyers wind up in trouble with their bar association.

Conflicts of Interest

Lawyers should run conflict checks for not just their current clients[1], but also look to check:

  • Concurrent representation of clients with adverse interests
  • Successive representation of clients with adverse interests
  • Conflicts resulting from lawyer’s receipt of confidential information outside attorney-client relationship
  • Conflicts resulting from lawyer’s relationships with non-clients

Trust Accounting

The rules regarding trust accounting have strict requirements for lawyers and the number of them can lead to unknowing infractions. Lawyers should beware of:

  • Commingling of funds
  • Individual client ledger overdrafts
  • Borrowing client funds

Lack of Diligence

ABA Model Rule 1.32[2] requires lawyers to “act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client.” But a busy schedule including deadlines, appointments and tasks, it can be easy to drop the ball. Stay organized at all costs, using technology to help keep track of your matters, and if necessary utilize an employee or outsourced personnel to help you stay on track and avoid malpractice claims.

These are not the only ways in which lawyers can find themselves in violation of a bar association’s ethics rule. Be sure to familiarize yourself with both the American Bar Association’s rules[3] as well as your local bar associations.


1. The Three Most Common Ethics Violations Committed by Lawyers
2. Rule 1.3: Diligence
3. Model Rules of Professional Conduct: American Bar Association

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