BOCA RATON Florida, June 17, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — The New England states of New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Vermont lead the 50 states in lawyer discipline, devoting more resources to processing and to the resolution of wrongdoing complaints, according to a study by researchers at Florida Atlantic University.
The study, published in The Quarterly Review of Economics and Finance, also found that Alabama, New York, and Missouri finished with the bottom three composite scores, respectively.
Florida ranked seventh lowest in the United States, according to the study, which found that poor lawyer discipline is an indicator of corruption but not a direct measure.
UFA researchers James McNultyPh.D., and graduate student Jason Damm, Ph.D., said states with limited discipline have less reliable and less predictable legal systems, which makes it more difficult for businesses to operate smoothly.
Researchers have also found a correlation between states committed to disciplining lawyers and long-term economic growth, although there is no direct link. They suggest that more research in this area could prove useful.
“More resources for lawyer discipline would likely improve economic growth rates for states at the bottom of our rankings,” said McNulty, professor emeritus of finance at FAU. College of Business. “Law schools in these states would also be wise to focus more on legal ethics.”
Damm earned a doctorate from FAU this year and will begin teaching at the University of Miami in the fall. He and McNulty reached their conclusions after analyzing data from 2000 to 2017.
They used the American Bar Association’s Annual Survey of Lawyer Discipline (SOLD) and developed five measures of discipline: number of complaints; number of lawyers accused of misconduct; the relationship between the number of lawyers assigned and the number of complaints; the budget for the discipline of lawyers; and workload per disciplinary lawyer.
In scoring the highest, New Hampshire had the fourth fewest complaints of the 50 states, the fourth lowest case count, and the fourth highest case count per disciplinary attorney.
Alabama’s highest ranking was 25th among indicted attorneys, and the state finished no better than No. 31 in the other four categories.
After Vermont, the states with the highest composite scores are: South Carolina; Texas; California; Hawaii; Georgia; Virginia; and Washington. The other states in the bottom 10 of the ranking were: Kentucky; Ohio; North Carolina; Indiana; Montana; and Idaho.
McNulty and Damm said they were unaware of another study that used SOLD data to assess lawyer discipline and its effect on state growth.
The researchers noted that if the states are alike in all material respects except for lawyer discipline, it is likely that lawyers struggling with ethical issues will choose to practice in the most lenient area. Additionally, companies that generate large profits through unethical practices such as racketeering, extreme pollution, and predatory lending are more likely to do business in states where there are more lawyers for defend them and who are willing to deviate from the standards governing the legal profession.
“Prosecutors are officers of justice,” according to the study. “If citizens cannot trust the people who make and enforce laws, it is more difficult for any society to function effectively.”
Paul Owers Florida Atlantic University College of Business 561-221-4090 [email protected]