12 lawyers in its discipline system, who
handle an average of 79 cases. Your Bar
employs 15 lawyers who handle an average
of 177 cases. What is remarkable to me is
that even in 2011, our discipline lawyers
were resolving their formal cases in 143
days on average, compared to Virginia,
where cases took 698 days on average to
conclude. That’s roughly five months compared to nearly two years.
Your Bar devotes substantial resources
to programs designed to keep small practitioners out of discipline, including the Law
Office Management Assistance Program
(LOMAP) and extensive CLE. Virginia, by
the way, with its bare-bones budget, offers
neither of these. Virginia lawyers must join
and pay dues in another association to gain
these services. Our efforts are bearing fruit.
Between 2011 and 2012, the total number
of complaints against attorneys fell by more
than 18 percent. 3 For the formal complaints filed, the average time to conclusion
went from 143 days down to just 66 days.
One of the chief reasons your Bar
can handle discipline cases so efficiently is
our Attorney/Client Assistance Program
(A/CAP). Complainants are encouraged
to speak with an intake lawyer. This results
in a more personalized, streamlined
process. Non-meritorious claims are not
charged. Low-level misconduct is resolved
by providing instruction to the lawyer, or
by directing the lawyer to other Bar
resources. Serious offenses are treated seriously, but our intake process resolves 75
percent of the complaints we receive.
Between 2011 and 2012, the number of
charges against lawyers referred for full
investigation fell by more than 30 percent. 4
Keeping lawyers out of discipline, and
treating minor infractions as minor, should
provide assurance to all practitioners in
Arizona, and solos in particular, that your
Bar can do its job of regulating our profession in a fair and efficient way.
PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE by Whitney Cunningham
Some of you have communicated with me over
the past several months your view that the State Bar of Arizona unfairly targets solo and small-firm practitioners when it comes to discipline.
I am keenly interested in the perspective of solo practitioners on this
topic. I spent the first half of my career (thus far) in a firm and the second half in practice with my wife, Jennifer Mott. Transitioning from
firm to very small firm, I experienced how isolated solo practitioners
can feel on any number of issues that simply do not materialize for
those in larger firms. In my role
as president of your Bar, I can
confirm to you that I do not see
evidence of solo practitioners
being unfairly targeted. If I did,
you would have heard about it
I encourage all of you to take
a look at Title 32 of the Arizona
What you will not find in Title 32 is the regulation of lawyers.
Unique among the professions, we answer to the Supreme Court of
Arizona. The Supreme Court, in turn, constitutes the State Bar of
Arizona for the purpose, among other things, of “regulation and discipline of persons engaged in the practice of law.” 1 Your Bar is governed in large part by the representatives you elect. We are, thus, self-regulating.
Self-regulation will not tolerate excessive leniency, nor does it
require undue harshness. We owe a solemn duty to the public and
practitioners to operate a discipline system that is both efficient and
fair. I think we are doing exactly this.
A comparison to Virginia helps make the point.
I think Virginia is a terrific state, and it has an exemplary
bar. I lived there for four years during and after law school.
I’ve had the chance to get to know some of its state bar leaders during my tenure as an officer of your Bar. These are
quality people. Virginia and Arizona share equal status in
terms of how our bars are constituted. Each is a unified bar
that also performs a regulatory function. There are 25 such
state bars in the United States. Virginia has the distinction of
being the bar with the lowest member dues across this
In data published by the ABA just three years ago, we see
that Virginia is a bar almost double the size of Arizona, yet it
received fewer complaints than we do—not just fewer com-
plaints per lawyer, but a smaller number overall. 2 It employs
1. Rule 32(a)( 1), ARIZ.R.S.CT.
2. ABA Survey on Lawyer Discipline (2011).
3. Annual Report of the Attorney Regulation
Advisory Committee to the Arizona
Supreme Court (2013).
4. Id. at 5-6.
not tolerate excessive
does it require