Statistics on Virginia’s Discipline of Lawyers: Fiscal Years 2020-2022

Reporting from the Virginia State Bar’s Office of Bar Counsel shows consistency yet again in the overall number of complaints made against lawyers and the corresponding levels of discipline.

Here are the figures:

  Fiscal Year 2020 Fiscal Year 2021 Fiscal Year 2022
Active Membership 31,693 32,427 31,655
Total Complaints Received 3,091 2,924 3,113
New Complaints Assigned to Bar Counsel 651 562 473
Cases Dismissed by Bar Counsel 331 315 240
Cases Otherwise Dismissed 142 129 121
Private Discipline 50 43 38
Public Admonition or Reprimand 20 24 34
Suspensions 20 33 18
Revocations 27 (16 consent) 21 (12 consent) 19 (13 consent)

Behind the figures lies what I see as the real “take away.” For both public and private discipline, the leading sources of ethics violations arise out of:

  1. Competency, Rule 1.1. (“Competent representation requires the legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness and preparation reasonably necessary for the representation.”).
  2. Diligence, Rule 1.3. (“A lawyer shall keep a client reasonably informed about the status of a matter and promptly comply with reasonable requests for information….”).
  3. Managing Trust Accounts, Rule 1.15.

And I have a strong hunch that what led to the complaints being made in the first place that gave rise to the discipline (and to the bar possibly uncovering the ethics violations) was an absence of client communication. See Rule 1.4. Bar complaints and legal malpractice actions frequently cite poor communication as a source of discontent in the attorney-client relationship. To give it a number, roughly 25% of complaints cite client dissatisfaction with communication with her own lawyer.

In summary:

  • Know what you are doing (or find someone that does)
  • Don’t procrastinate (and do it timely)
  • Keep your clients updated early and often
  • And keep your trust accounts and your trust account records beyond reproach

Jeff Geiger assists attorneys and law firms with ethics, bar discipline, legal malpractice and professional responsibility matters. If you have any questions, please contact Jeff at (804) 783-7248 or