FAU Study: New England States Lead in Lawyer Discipline – Boca Raton’s Most Trusted Source

New Hampshire ranks No. 1; Alabama, Florida Need to add resources

Boca Raton, FL – The New England states of New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Vermont lead the 50 states in attorney discipline, devoting more resources to handling and resolving wrongdoing complaints , according to a study by researchers at Florida Atlantic University.

The study, published in The quarterly review of economy and financealso found that Alabama, New York, and Missouri finished with the bottom three composite scores, respectively.

Florida ranked seventh lowest in the United States, according to the study, which found that poor lawyer discipline is an indicator of corruption but not a direct measure.

UFA researchers James McNultyPh.D., and graduate student Jason Damm, Ph.D., said states with limited discipline have less reliable and less predictable legal systems, which makes it more difficult for businesses to operate smoothly.

Researchers have also found a correlation between states committed to disciplining lawyers and long-term economic growth, although there is no direct link. They suggest that more research in this area could prove useful.

“More resources for lawyer discipline would likely improve economic growth rates for states at the bottom of our rankings,” said McNulty, professor emeritus of finance at FAU. College of Business. “Law schools in these states would also be wise to focus more on legal ethics.”

Damm earned a doctorate from FAU this year and will begin teaching at the University of Miami in the fall. He and McNulty reached their conclusions after analyzing data from 2000 to 2017.

They used the American Bar Association’s Annual Survey of Lawyer Discipline (SOLD) and developed five measures of discipline: number of complaints; number of lawyers accused of misconduct; the ratio between the number of lawyers assigned and the number of complaints; the budget for the discipline of lawyers; and workload per disciplinary lawyer.

In scoring the highest, New Hampshire had the fourth fewest complaints of the 50 states, the fourth lowest case count, and the fourth highest case count per disciplinary attorney.

Alabama’s highest ranking was 25e in accused attorneys, and the state finished no better than No. 31 in the other four categories.

After Vermont, the states with the highest composite scores are: South Carolina; Texas; California; Hawaii; Georgia; Virginia; and Washington. The other states in the bottom 10 of the ranking were: Kentucky; Ohio; North Carolina; Indiana; Montana; and Idaho.

McNulty and Damm said they were unaware of another study that used SOLD data to assess lawyer discipline and its effect on state growth.

The researchers noted that if the states are alike in all material respects except for lawyer discipline, it is likely that lawyers struggling with ethical issues will choose to practice in the most lenient area. Additionally, companies that generate large profits through unethical practices such as racketeering, extreme pollution, and predatory lending are more likely to do business in states where there are more lawyers for defend them and who are willing to deviate from the standards governing the legal profession.

“Prosecutors are officers of justice,” according to the study. “If citizens cannot trust the people who make and enforce laws, it is more difficult for any society to function effectively.”

About Florida Atlantic University:
Florida Atlantic University, established in 1961, officially opened in 1964 as Florida’s fifth public university. Today, the University enrolls more than 30,000 undergraduate and graduate students across six campuses located along Florida’s southeast coast. In recent years, the University has doubled its research expenditures and surpassed its peers in student success rates. Through the coexistence of access and excellence, FAU embodies an innovative model where traditional achievement gaps disappear. FAU is designated as a Hispanic-serving institution, ranked among the top public universities by U.S. News & World Report, and as a high-research institution by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Education. For more information, visit www.fau.edu.

Denise W. Whigham