FAU Study Shows Which State Has Highest Attorney Discipline
BOCA RATON, FL – Boca Post (BocaPost.com) — A recent FAU study says that the highest attorney discipline is not found in Boca Raton or even in Florida.
A study conducted by researchers from Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton says that the states with the most attorney discipline are New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Vermont.
The study also found that the states with the worst attorney discipline were Alabama, New York, and Missouri.
FAU researchers James McNulty, Ph.D., and graduate student Jason Damm, Ph.D., in their research have documented that businesses have a more difficult time functioning properly in states that have less predictable and trustworthy legal systems, a direct result of less legal discipline.
“More resources for attorney discipline would probably improve the rates of economic growth for states at the bottom of our rankings,” said McNulty, Emeritus Professor of Finance in FAU’s College of Business. “Those states’ law schools also would be wise to focus more on legal ethics.”
Florida was the seventh-lowest ranking in the U.S., according to the research, which can be viewed here.
FAU issued the following advisory:
They relied on the American Bar Association’s annual Survey on Lawyer Discipline (SOLD) and developed five measures of discipline: Number of complaints; number of lawyers charged with misconduct; the ratio of the number of attorneys charged to the number of complaints; the attorney discipline budget; and the caseload per disciplinary attorney.
In securing the best score, New Hampshire had the fourth-fewest complaints of the 50 states, the fourth-lowest caseload and the fourth-highest caseload per disciplinary attorney.
Alabama’s best ranking was 25th in attorneys charged, and the state finished no better than No. 31 in the other four categories.
After Vermont, the states finishing with the best composite scores were: South Carolina; Texas; California; Hawaii; Georgia; Virginia; and Washington. Other states in the bottom 10 of the rankings were: Kentucky; Ohio; North Carolina; Indiana; Montana; and Idaho.
McNulty and Damm said they aren’t aware of another study considering SOLD data to evaluate attorney discipline and its effect on state growth.
The researchers noted that if states are alike in every important respect except for attorney discipline, it is likely that ethically challenged attorneys will choose to practice in the more lenient area. What’s more, firms that generate big profits from unethical practices such as racketeering, extreme pollution and predatory lending are more likely to do business in states where there are more attorneys to defend them and who are willing to depart from the norms governing the legal profession.
“Attorneys are officers of the court,” according to the study. “If citizens cannot trust the people that make and enforce the laws, it is more difficult for any society to function effectively.”