WELCOME TO THE ARDC SECTION. Here is where you will find answers to the most frequently asked questions about the ARDC and the disciplinary process.
What is the ARDC?
Every jurisdiction has an agency or bar association that regulates the lawyers who are licensed in that state. In Illinois, that agency is the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, better known as the ARDC. It was created by the Illinois Supreme Court in 1976 and it assists the Court in regulating the legal profession through attorney registration, education, investigation, prosecution and remedial action. It is through the annual registration process that the ARDC maintains the master list of lawyers authorized to practice law in Illinois. The principal executive officer of the ARDC is the Administrator. The ARDC has two offices, one in Chicago located at 130 E. Randolph Drive, Suite 1500, Chicago, Illinois 60601, (312) 565-2600; and one in Springfield located at 3161 West White Oaks Drive, Suite 301, Springfield, Illinois 62704, (217) 546-3523. The website for the ARDC can be found at www.iardc.org .
I received a Request for Investigation from the ARDC. What does this mean?
It means that the ARDC has opened a file to investigate whether you have engaged in professional misconduct. The Administrator has the authority to initiate an investigation on his own motion; but most investigations are triggered by the submission of a Request for Investigation of a Lawyer form. This form can be found on the ARDC website, or it can be obtained by going to the ARDC office. The form asks for the name and contact information of the person submitting the form; the name and contact information of the attorney complained of; whether the person employed the attorney and if so, the date hired and the fee paid; whether the complaint is related to a court case; and the nature of the complaint. The Request for Investigation is sometimes referred to as a grievance since it is not a formal complaint. The ARDC receives approximately 6,000 to 6,500 grievances every year.
How should I respond to a Request for Investigation?
It is very natural to experience a range of emotions, such as shock, fear, and then anger, when you first learn the ARDC has opened a file to investigate your conduct. Ultimately, you will have to put your emotions aside so you can get a clear picture as to issues raised in the Request for Investigation. You should review your malpractice insurance policy to see if you have a duty to report the grievance and whether you have coverage. You must submit a written response to the ARDC’s letter. Failure to respond to a lawful request for information from the ARDC is a violation of Commission Rule 53 and Illinois Rule of Professional Conduct Rule 8.1(a)(2).
What are the possible sanctions that an attorney might face before the ARDC?
Sanctions that can be imposed for professional misconduct include reprimand; censure; suspension; or disbarment. Suspensions can range between 30 days and 3 years.
Do I need a lawyer to represent me?
It will be very challenging to represent yourself in an unfamiliar forum in a matter that can adversely affect your reputation; your career; and potentially your livelihood. Your emotional response to the grievance or the disciplinary process may cloud your judgment. Your interests will likely be better served by speaking with an ethics attorney who understands the disciplinary process and who has experience representing lawyers before the ARDC. As you have no doubt seen in your own law practice, seeking legal advice at the outset of a case increases the opportunity for a more favorable outcome. How many clients have you encountered where you wished they had come to you sooner?
What should I look for when selecting an ethics attorney?
Ideally, you want to select an attorney that you feel comfortable working with and who has experience representing lawyers before the ARDC. The attorney should be a seasoned litigator who is as familiar with trial strategy as they are with the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct. An ethics attorney who writes and lectures about ethics has a demonstrated commitment to helping lawyers who face disciplinary claims.
This content is being provided for informational purposes only. No attorney-client relationship is formed until there is a fully executed written agreement. If you have received a Request for Investigation and you need assistance in preparing a response; or you are the subject of an ARDC Complaint and you would like to speak with an experienced ethics attorney, please call (312) 753-6951 to set up an appointment.