Wallace E. “Gene” Shipp Jr. is retiring as head of the Office of Disciplinary Counsel for the District of Columbia after nearly 37 years of service. In 2016 Shipp was the recipient of the American Bar Association’s Michael Franck Professional Responsibility Award, he was also a popular and active member of the ICLR community. Recently, Shipp was interviewed by the Washington Lawyer to reminisce on how the disciplinary system has evolved over the course of his career. The full article can be read here but below are some edited highlights:
How things have changed…
When Gene first joined the D.C. attorney disciplinary system in 1980, there were three or four secretaries and about five lawyers in the office. The office now has a staff of 35 people, including 18 lawyers and two retired FBI agents who are investigators. Back then there were 14,000 lawyers in Washington, D.C., now there are 104,000. Despite the rise in lawyer numbers there has not been a rise in complaints. At one time they were receiving 1,500 complaints a year and now they receive about 1,000 complaints, they typically docket 400 to 500 of these. They ‘triage’ each complaint and that, along with a significant improvement in the teaching of professional responsibility to lawyers, has helped reduced the numbers
What are three things you are most proud of?
- I am proud of the mission that the court has given us — to protect the public — and the professionalism and dedication that the staff brings to it.
- I am proud of the width and breadth that this office is able to undertake. There isn’t a kind of law — whether it’s immigration law, uptown conflict law, big firm law, anti-dumping law — where we can’t do the job.
- I am proud of the fact that we are able to assist lawyers in regaining their ethical footing, not just simply yell at them, but to put them into the kind of services they need so we, hopefully, never see them again.
How do you see the office progressing in the future?
D.C. is the reciprocal capital of the world and it is becoming increasingly international. We’ve needed assistance in 19 cases where the conduct occurred somewhere outside the United States. We’ve expanded our partnerships with international disciplining agencies all over the world from Singapore to South Africa to Great Britain to Europe. We now can pick up the phone and find out things we could never find out before and have a much more robust investigation.
What’s next for Gene Shipp?
I hope one of these days to retire to the family farm. I have 60 acres and three John Deere tractors in the Shenandoah Valley waiting for me. My mom and my wife have put out 11 flower gardens. You can’t get a better situation than having your folks alive at 93, and we have a wonderful time on the weekends. I think that I am going to leave lawyers alone for a while. It’s been a great gig, but there’s only so much fun one individual should be allowed to have.