Practice Assistance and Improvement Program

Practice Assistance and Improvement Program

The LSBA's Practice Assistance and Improvement Program offers "alternatives to discipline" assistance. The Practice Assistance and Improvement Program's two alternative to discipline programs-the Attorney-Client Assistance Program and the Diversion Program have been in operation since September of 1998, after approval from the Louisiana Supreme Court providing assistance to lawyers. Disciplinary Counsel has the authority and discretion to refer matters before or after investigation to the Practice Assistance and Improvement Program administered by the LSBA.

Attorney-Client Assistance Program
The Attorney-Client Assistance Program is a voluntary program aimed at facilitating the prompt resolution of complaints about lawyer conduct. These complaints focus on minor problems such as lawyer-client communications or relational matters not rising to a level of ethical violations warranting investigation by Disciplinary Counsel. Disciplinary Counsel has the discretion to refer matters to this program after screening the complaint.

When Disciplinary Counsel sends a complaint to the Attorney-Client Assistance Program, the LSBA's Practice Assistance Counsel will send a letter via fax to the attorney explaining this voluntary program and requesting that the respondent advise within three business days whether she he or she elects to participate in the program. If the attorney and the complaining party choose to participate in the Attorney-Client Assistance Program, Practice Assistance Counsel will attempt to facilitate a resolution of the complaint to the satisfaction of all parties. The goal of the program is quick, prompt, fast resolution of complaints outside of the disciplinary system. Complaints are returned to Disciplinary Counsel if either party is not satisfied after brief facilitation.

Diversion Program
The Diversion Program allows lawyers who are guilty of minor misconduct to be diverted from the disciplinary process to an education monitoring program coordinated by the LSBA's Practice Assistance Counsel. Diversion allows lawyers to avoid a permanent record of discipline. Diversion may be offered by Disciplinary Counsel in cases involving minor misconduct where there is little or no injury to the public, the legal system or the profession. Prior disciplinary history and prior diversion are considered when making a determination as to whether a matter qualifies for diversion.

Lawyers participating in diversion are required to sign a formal contract outlining the terms, conditions and obligations of diversion. The contract almost always requires attendance at the LSBA's Ethics School. Facilitation with the complaining party may also be included in a diversion contract as well as any other terms agreed on by Practice Assistance Counsel, Disciplinary Counsel and the lawyer referred to the Diversion Program. In the event monitoring is a component of diversion, monitors are obtained from the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board. If a diversion is not successful, the matter will be returned to disciplinary counsel for further handling.

LSBA Ethics School
The LSBA Ethics School is the primary component of the Diversion Program. The Ethics School is held twice a year and is available to diversion participants and attorneys attending in conjunction with discipline. An exam is given at the conclusion of the day. The cost is $395 and 4 hours CLE credit is given, including Ethics and Professionalism.

Trust Accounting School
The School is a once a year three hour CLE offered to attorney referrals from the Office of Disciplinary Counsel who had disciplinary complaints involving their trust account. An attorney/CPA teaches the attorneys both the ethical rules involving trust accounting as well as practical demonstrations on how to keep, maintain, and balance an attorney trust account. It is designed to compliment and exceed what is taught at the LSBA Ethics School.

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