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Under what circumstances might disciplinary sanctions be imposed?

Every lawyer promises to uphold the law and to comply with the Iowa Rules of Professional Conduct. Lawyers who fail to do so are subject to professional discipline. However, lawyers are human. Sometimes, a lawyer makes a mistake. If that mistake causes a loss to the client, the client may be able to recover the loss from the lawyer in a court of law. However, an isolated mistake or error in judgment is usually not unethical conduct.

Lawyer discipline must be considered very carefully, because a disciplinary sanction may drastically affect the lawyer’s career, reputation, and ability to earn a living. For that reason, it takes more than a claim of ethical misconduct to justify a disciplinary sanction. The Board (and, if public discipline is sought, the Supreme Court) will require evidence – proof of unethical conduct – to justify disciplining a lawyer, just like a court would require proof of wrongdoing by any member of society before imposing a punishment.

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