Report to the Wisconsin Office of Lawyer Regulation: Analysis of Grievances Filed in Criminal and Family Matters from 2013-2016
In many states, the highest number of docketed grievances arise out of criminal and family law matters. This report analyzes the 4,898 grievances filed with the Wisconsin Office of Lawyer Regulation (“OLR”) in family or criminal law matters during the period from 2013-2016. The OLR provided the data, enabling analysis of the grievances by gender, age, length of time since law school graduation, type of matter, prior experience with diversion or discipline, and geographical location. The data also revealed the frequency of allegations by practice matter, the types of allegations that led to discipline, and the frequency with which lawyers who received grievances were represented by counsel. A number of the study findings are consistent with results from other jurisdictions. The data also revealed some unexpected results, including that approximately 40% of the grievances during the period studied were against lawyers who had either been subject to diversion, a discipline sanction, or both. While family and criminal law are areas that attract a large number of grievances—many of which are unfounded—the 40% figure suggests that a large percentage of lawyers may not be learning the intended lessons from their exposure to the discipline system. In addition, a surprising percentage of recent law graduates face grievances in family and criminal matters, and many grievances against Wisconsin lawyers in family and criminal matters were based on improper advocacy. The report includes some specific recommendations to improve the Wisconsin discipline process.