Recently a lawyer was telling me about some bad conduct that happened at their office. They had a run-in with a senior partner and the lawyer I was speaking with seemed pretty sure that the senior partner’s actions constituted a violation of the ethics rules. Before I could even ask if they were going to report the misdeed, the lawyer said, “It was probably reportable, but I didn’t want to make waves. I just kept my mouth shut, hoping it would all blow over. Eventually, I found another job and just moved on.”
That might be a sensible approach in life, generally, but it’s a dangerous approach in the world of attorney ethics. That’s because our duty to report is mandatory. Rule 8.3 requires that lawyers report misconduct. That’s right– requires. Don’t get me wrong, there are a bunch of hurdles that you need to jump over before the conduct becomes reportable per the rule. But once you reach that threshold, the duty is just that– a duty. If you fail to report that misconduct, you might be liable for an ethics violation of your own.