The Maryland Daily Record reports that the number of docketed complaints of lawyer misconduct fell by nearly 24 percent in the final six months of 2008, compared to the same period in 2007. Maryland Bar Counsel Mel Hirshman called the statistically significant fall in client criticism “unexpected” in this time of economic turmoil because complaints against Maryland lawyers tend to increase during economic turbulence for two reasons: (1) clients are unable to pay their attorneys’ fees which sours relationships and (2) Maryland lawyers who feel compelled to nibble into IOLTA accounts because they are behind on their own bills.
Maryland personal injury lawyers are immune from the former and largely immune from the latter simply because money typically does not sit for extended periods of time in IOLTA accounts in most personal injury cases. In fact, the number of complaints fell sharply in personal injury and property damage cases, to 37 percent – down from 48 percent a year earlier.
Three possible reasons for this: (1) lawyers are becoming more ethical and this is leading to a drop in complaints; (2) in a poor economy, people have less energy to spend on anger and spite because they are more concerned with their economic situations, leading to fewer complaints – valid or invalid – that their lawyers are jerks, unresponsive, etc.; or (3) it’s just a statistical anomaly.
I’m inclined to go with #3. We have been blessed with economic stability in the country for a long time up until recently. As a result, I think we are all inclined to attribute everything from the price if zinc in Cambodia to Oprah’s weight gain on the economy. Nevertheless, it is a bad idea to look a gift horse in the mouth – this is probably encouraging news no matter how you slice it. (The caveat: do complaints necessarily correlate with behavior?)
In other news from this report, I was surprised to see Frederick County in the top five for complaints. Is Frederick County getting that big or are there just more problem children there? I’m guessing it is the former but I don’t know. The top 6:
Montgomery County: 74
Prince George’s County: 62
Baltimore County: 60
Baltimore City: 56
Frederick County: 32
Anne Arundel County: 27