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.

The mission of the Practice Assistance and Improvement Committee shall be to serve the Bar and the public in furtherance of the Association's goals of prevention and correction of lawyer misconduct, and assistance to victims of lawyer misconduct by evaluating, developing and providing effective alternatives to discipline programs for minor offenses, educational and practice assistance programs, and programs to resolve minor complaints and lawyer/client disputes.

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, fee issues 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 Practice Assistance and Improvement Diversion Programs:
LSBA Ethics School
The LSBA Ethics School is the primary component of the Diversion Program.  The LSBA Ethics School is a day long immersive program designed to educate attorneys on the Rules of Professional Conduct as well as discipline avoidance. Topics include: The Attorney-Client Relationship, Conflicts of Interest, Trust Accounting, Law Practice Management, the Disciplinary System and Common Complaints, Ethical Advertising and Marketing, How to Deal with Fee Disputes and the Judges and Lawyers Assistance 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.

Trust Accounting School
The School is a twice a year three hour intensive course offered to attorney referrals from the Office of Disciplinary Counsel who had disciplinary complaints involving their trust account. An attorney/CPA or LSBA Ethics Counsel teach 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.  The cost is $100.

Other possible conditions of Diversion can include (but are not limited to):

Stress Management Workshop
Law Practice Management School
Loss Prevention Consultation through Gilsbar
Advertising School
LSBA Legal Fee Dispute Resolution
Louisiana State Bar Association
601 St. Charles Avenue
New Orleans, LA 70130
(800) 421-LSBA(5722) / (504) 566-1600