Definitions

The following definitions are used throughout this website. You should refer back to these definitions if you do not understand a term used.

Admonition – a written form of discipline imposed in cases in which a lawyer has committed a minor violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct.

Bar Counsel - a North Carolina State Bar staff lawyer who investigates and/or prosecutes disciplinary charges against the respondent.

Censure – a written form of discipline more serious than a reprimand issued in cases in which the respondent has violated one or more provisions of the Rules of Professional Conduct and has caused significant harm or potential significant harm to a client, the administration of justice, the profession, or a member of the public, but the misconduct does not require suspension of the respondent's license.

Complainant – the person making a complaint against a lawyer.

Disbarment - Expulsion from the North Carolina State Bar which revokes the lawyer's license and prohibits the lawyer from practicing law in North Carolina and holding him or herself out as a lawyer. Disbarment is permanent unless the lawyer petitions to have his or her license restored, which he or she may do after five years. To be reinstated, the lawyer must prove to the Disciplinary Hearing Commission that he has reformed.

Disciplinary Hearing Commission (DHC) - the trial arm of the North Carolina State Bar. It is composed of 12 lawyers and 8 non-lawyers.

Grievance – the complaint filed against a lawyer by a client, member of the public, or another lawyer.

Letter of Caution – written communication from the Grievance Committee or the DHC to a lawyer stating that the lawyer's conduct, while not the basis for discipline, is unprofessional or not in accord with accepted professional practice.

Letter of Warning – written communication from the Grievance Committee or the DHC to a lawyer stating that the lawyer's conduct, while not the basis for discipline, is an unintentional, minor, or technical violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct and may be the basis for discipline if continued or repeated.

Malpractice – when a lawyer fails to exercise an accepted degree of professional learning or skill when rendering legal services to a client which results in injury or loss to the client. A claim of malpractice must be made in a court of law. A violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct is not malpractice.

Reprimand – a written form of discipline more serious than an admonition issued in cases in which the respondent has violated one or more provisions of the Rules of Professional Conduct, causing harm or potential harm to a client, the administration of justice, the profession, or a member of the public, but the misconduct does not require a censure.

Respondent – the lawyer against whom a complaint is made.

Rules of Professional Conduct – the rules of ethical conduct that all North Carolina lawyers must follow. The rules govern lawyers' ethical duties to clients, the courts, and the public. The Rules are also known as the Revised Rules of Professional Conduct.

Suspension – Temporary removal of the lawyer's license to practice law in North Carolina .

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