The lowest level of actual punishment for a violation of the legal ethics rules is private or public censure. This is basically a letter put in the attorney's file and either available to the public (public censure) or not (private censure) that says that the attorney has been found to violate the ethics rules, but the offense is not serious enough to justify suspension of the license to practice law for a period of time.
The fact that an attorney was punished in the past for a violation of the ethics rules does not conclusively establish that there will be problems in your case if you retain the attorney. It is just one thing to consider when hiring an attorney.
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Sometimes the censure relates to matters that are completely unimportant and unrelated to the quality of work provided to the attorney's clients. It is important to look into the record and determine the factual basis of the censure in order to know whether it should give you pause or affect your decision as to whether or not to hire a particular attorney.
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A Public Censure is the lowest form of public discipline an attorney may be sanctioned for. Private Reprimands and Private Informal Admonitions fall below a Censure on the discipline ladder and Suspensions and Disbarments rise above a Censure. A Censure does not affect an attorney's ability to practice law and should give pause to a potential client about whether to retain the attorney. Some conduct is more reprehensible than other conduct, and a potential client will have to weigh the facts giving rise to the Censure to determine whether the attorney may or may not be a good fit for them.
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