July 14, 2009
Advice From Inactive Lawyer Draws Suspension
Pennsylvania is a jurisdiction that takes a particularly dim view of the unauthorized practice of law by inactive attorneys. A case in point involves a consent suspension for six months approved by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The attorney had been placed on inactive status for failure to complete his CLE obligations. According to the Disciplinary Board's report, he "did not fully understand the consequences of being an inactive attorney until he retained...counsel." While inactive, he had "performed a limited amount of legal services in his role as General Counsel" for a corporation:
The legal duties which he performed were limited to answering minor legal questions [the corporation] had regarding approximately 6 business contracts. [He] answered [the corporation's] questions while it was waiting for outside counsel to complete the revisions to the contracts, and while it was receiving outside counsel's advice regarding significant legal issues.
The attorney was restored to active practice in late 2008 but had agreed to refrain from offering legal advice until the disciplinary case was concluded. He no longer is identified as general counsel to the corporation on its website and elsewhere. All legal work is being handled by outside counsel. (Mike Frisch)
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