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            Lawyers are officers of the courts in which they practice, and that role imposes a heightened responsibility on individuals who practice law.  Each state has adopted a specific set of guidelines which set forth the ethical obligations of lawyers in specific detail.  In Georgia, these guidelines are known as the Rules of Professional Conduct.  Anyone can view these rules and the comments explaining them on the website of the State Bar of Georgia.   When a lawyer violates one of the Rules of Professional Conduct, he may be subject to discipline by the State Bar of Georgia (or the bar in the state in which he practiced at the time of the violation). 

What do I do if I believe my attorney behaved unethically?
            If you believe that your lawyer has behaved unethically, you may utilize the procedures for filing a grievance with the State Bar of Georgia (or the bar in the state where the violation occurred).  The State Bar will undertake an investigation of your claims, and will allow the lawyer an opportunity to defend against your claims.  If the Bar concludes that the lawyer did commit an ethics violation after completing the investigation and conducting a hearing, the Bar will discipline the lawyer accordingly.

How are ethics violations and legal malpractice claims related? 
            Ethics violations are not determinative of whether a lawyer committed legal malpractice.  Even if you file a grievance with the State Bar and your lawyer is subject to discipline, you will not automatically be entitled to compensation for damages suffered as a result of the violation.  The filing of a legal malpractice claim is your only recourse if you want to recover damages from your lawyer.

            While the Rules of Professional Conduct are relevant to the question of whether a lawyer breached the standard of care (a key element in bringing a legal malpractice claim), they are not determinative.  Just as a breach of one of the Rules of Professional Conduct may not give rise to a claim for damages for legal malpractice, you may also suffer damages arising out of negligent conduct which is wholly unrelated to the guidelines set forth in these rules.

   

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