Employing a Disbarred Lawyer: Be Careful You Don’t Lose Your Own License!

A solo practitioner in New York received a two-year suspension after employing a disbarred attorney as a paralegal—the problem arose because the disbarred attorney used an assumed name and was essentially engaged in the practice of law.

In its opinion and order, the Supreme Court of the State of New York agreed with the grievance committee’s recommendation because the Court found that the solo practitioner authorized the disbarred attorney to act as the principle contact between clients and also improperly solicited clients for the firm. Specifically, the Court found that the solo practitioner knowingly assisted a non-lawyer in the unauthorized practice of law, in violation of rule 5.5(b) of New York’s Rules of Professional Conduct, engaged in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation, in violation of rule 8.4(c), engaged in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice, in violation of rule 8.4(d), and engaged in conduct that adversely reflects on his fitness as a lawyer, in violation of rule 8.4(h).

States vary as to whether disbarred or suspended attorneys are permitted to work in any capacity in a law firm. Disbarred or suspended attorneys may be employed as paralegals or law clerks in some states; however, paralegals and law clerks should never be engaged in the practice of law so it is critical to understand your state’s distinction among the roles, and know the tasks allowed in the context of a law firm.

Click here to read more on this case. Click here to read more on the being disbarred, but not disbarred from working in a legal environment.

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