The Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission recently rolled out a new website with enhanced content that will be more useful to the bar and the public. Here is the address of the website: http://www.IN.gov/judiciary/discipline.  Check it out for yourselves, but here’s a preview.

INFORMATION FOR THE PUBLIC

The website has two major sections, one with information geared toward the public, and the other with information of greater interest to lawyers. The public’s section includes to information that is also contained in a printed brochure the Commission distributes.  There is a link to information generally describing the work of the Commission, including copies of the three most recent annual reports.  It also informs the public about the Indiana State Bar Association’s Client Financial Assistance Fund, a fund created from association member’s dues to compensate victims of intentional wrongdoing by lawyers.

There is a link to a page with tips for getting information about lawyers. It tells people how to find out the license status and disciplinary history of lawyers and how to access the on-line Roll of Attorneys.  We also link to the archive of orders and per curiam opinions issued by the Supreme Court in lawyer discipline cases since September of 2003.

The procedures for complaining to the Commission about a lawyer are described, and there is a downloadable version of the Request for Investigation form that can be filled out on-line before printing. These requests must be faxed, mailed, or hand-delivered to our office. You can’t make a Request for Investigation on-line. The public information also includes some tips for clients about trying to work out problems with their lawyers:

Successful lawyers are busy people. A telephone call often cannot be handled right away, and you may have to leave a message. Leave as complete a message as possible so your lawyer has a sense of the urgency of the situation. If you don’t get a timely return call, request an appointment or send a letter and keep a copy for your records.

  • Make sure you have a good understanding of the basis for the fee you will be charged. It is always fair for you to ask the lawyer to put the basic fee agreement in writing.
  • If you feel problems are developing in your relationship with your lawyer, discuss them early on before they become serious. Most lawyers will welcome an opportunity to speak with their clients about improving the relationship.
  • If your fee agreement calls for you to pay fees on an hourly basis, ask to be billed frequently so you can keep track of the costs of representation.
  • A workable attorney-client relationship is worth preserving, but if you have lost confidence in your lawyer, you are free to discharge your lawyer and hire a new one at any time.
  • Ask to receive copies of the written legal work that is prepared on your behalf by your lawyer.
  • Be an informed consumer of legal services. Don’t be afraid to ask your lawyer questions about your case.
  • Make wise use of your lawyer’s time.

INFORMATION FOR LAWYERS

The site also contains a lot of useful content for the practicing bar. Included are links to up-to-date versions of the Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct, Indiana Admission and Discipline Rule 23, and the Rules Governing Attorney Trust Account Overdraft Reporting.  Of special note is a section on trust accounts.  This includes a downloadable copy of a comprehensive manual on Trust Account Management prepared by the staff of the Disciplinary Commission.

This 55-page manual is a great tool for the correct set-up and administration of trust accounts and for answering questions about trust accounts when they arise. It also includes an up-to-date list of all financial institutions that have been approved to act as depositories for lawyer trust accounts, a link to IOLTA and other useful forms maintained on the Clerk of Courts webpage, and a downloadable form for notifying your bank that a non-IOLTA trust account is subject to overdraft reporting.  Some examples of non-IOLTA trust accounts include trust accounts dedicated to the funds of one particular client or a trust account exempted from the IOLTA program by the Indiana Bar Foundation.

Although it will not be of interest to very many lawyers, we have also linked to a copy of the manual for hearing officers in lawyer discipline cases prepared by the Supreme Court’s Division of State Court Administration.

ON-LINE ANNUAL REGISTRATION

Finally, the website links to the Clerk’s new webpage where lawyers can make changes to their Roll of Attorney records and pay their annual registration fees on-line. This eliminates the need for lawyers to contact the Clerk’s office directly to make address changes or to return their annual registration statements and pay their annual fees by mail.  In the upper right-hand corner of your 2005-06 annual registration statement, there is a personal identification code that is unique to you.  It is not labeled as such, but this is the password you will use to gain access to on-line registration and fee payment.  Note that this code is case sensitive.  There will be a new randomly generated code on your next year’s statement.  Once you have entered your attorney number and password, a copy of your Roll of Attorneys registration information screen will be displayed.  All of the information displayed can be modified by the user on-line except for name, admission date and attorney number.  Clicking on the button labeled, “Update Attorney Info Only” registers the changes on the Roll of Attorneys.

ON-LINE FEE REGISTRATION FEE PAYMENT

To pay your registration fee on-line (with or without changes to information on the Roll of Attorneys), you will instead click on the button labeled, “Continue to Annual Registration.” This will register any changes you made to your registration information and take you to a fee payment page.  Here, you will be asked to identify your IOLTA participation status, and if you are not exempt, supply information about your IOLTA accounts.

This page will also display the amount of your fee obligation, including any late fees due as of the date you sign on to the system. If you choose to pay your registration fee on-line, you will click the button labeled, “Continue to Credit Card Processing.”  This will take you to a credit card payment screen.  It is identical to the payment screen you may be used to if you pay your motor vehicle registration on-line.

There is a small user fee that goes to Access Indiana, the Internet service provider, not to the Disciplinary Commission. I paid my registration fee on-line this fall and the total of processing fees on my $105 annual registration payment amounted to $5.67.  After paying, you will be able to print out a receipt and will also receive a confirmation and receipt by e-mail.  One caveat: currently, after having paid your registration fee for the year, if you go back into the system, it will not remember that you have paid.  Thus, it will allow you to pay your registration fee a second time.  Please avoid doing this to spare us the trouble of making a refund to you of the overpayment.

The Disciplinary Commission’s website is much more functional and informative than it used to be. It is a one-stop shop for most information pertaining to lawyer regulation in Indiana.  We’re always looking for ways to improve it, so don’t hesitate to contact the Disciplinary Commission with your ideas.