A new study published in The Quarterly Review of Economics and Finance reveals that the Sunshine State is a shady place for law practice. The study, conducted by FAU, ranked all 50 states in regard to attorney discipline, with Florida placing 44th in terms of the amount of resources dedicated to “addressing and resolving complaints of wrongdoing” against attorneys.
The implications of the study are wide-reaching, with researchers correlating a state legal system’s ability to deal with internal corruption to that state’s overall economic health. The study found that low levels of attorney discipline are also an indicator of corruption.
“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.”
FAU researchers James McNulty, Ph.D., and graduate student Jason Damm, Ph.D, evaluated states’ attorney discipline “based on the frequency with which state bar associations discipline their attorneys.” McNulty and Damm developed five measures to assess a state’s attorney discipline including the number of complaints; the 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.
The study notes that ethically dubious attorneys are more likely to practice law in less disciplined areas, and that “states with limited discipline have less trustworthy and less predictable legal systems, making it more difficult for businesses to function properly.” Furthermore, law companies raking in huge profits from unethical legal practices in defense of companies responsible for pollution and predatory lending are more likely to practice law in those same areas.
Having a healthy legal system is vital for communities to develop trust in those who are sworn to protect us. For this trust to erode means the legal bedrock that our society rests upon is threatened.
“Attorneys are officers of the court,” the study says. “If citizens cannot trust the people that make and enforce the laws, it is more difficult for any society to function effectively.”
For more information on attorney discipline in Florida, visit here.