The number of investigations into lawyer misconduct is declining at the same time the number of attorneys in Illinois is climbing, a recent report indicates.
“There may be no specific reason for it, but a lessening number of investigations is healthy,” said James Grogan, deputy administrator and chief counsel for the state Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission.
The ARDC regulates licensed Illinois lawyers
The ARDC docketed 5,617 investigations into alleged ethics violations in 2010, a 3.7 percent decrease from the year before and the fewest number of docketed investigations in 18 years.
The Supreme Court entered 148 sanctions against 148 lawyers last year, and another 7 lawyers were reprimanded by an ARDC hearing board.
Grogan offered some possible reasons behind the drop in grievances.
“Perhaps lawyers are being more protective in terms of their practices,” he said. Included in that would be more readily available lawyer education through the Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education, he said.
“Part of it may be the economy,” Grogan said. “Maybe fewer people are hiring lawyers.”
The top three areas of grievance involve the client-attorney relationship, including allegations of neglect, failing to communicate and conduct involving fraud or deceit.
Also consistent with prior years, areas of practice most likely to lead to grievances were criminal law, domestic relations, tort, and real estate.
More lawyers were disciplined for engaging in fraudulent or deceptive conduct than any other offense.
The report also noted that 86,657 lawyers were licensed to practice in Illinois as of Oct. 31. That doesn’t include the 2,117 attorneys who took the oath of office in late 2010 or more than 600 lawyers sworn in last week.
The statewide lawyer population saw an increase of 2.2 percent over 2009, continuing a trend of increases since 2001, and the largest one-year jump in lawyer population since 2005.
Despite the economy, lawyers continue to increase their pro bono services and their contributions to legal aid and legal service causes.
“We’ve been tracking this since 2007, and the profession has given back a lot just in terms of service hours,” he said.
By JOHN REYNOLDS,email@example.com, THE STATE JOURNAL-REGISTER
Source: The State Journal-Register