Tuesday, September 7, 2010
An Illinois hearing board has recommended a nine-month suspension of an attorney who engaged in unauthorized practice during a period of disciplinary suspension. The board concluded:
Respondent admitted he engaged in the unauthorized practice of law, and there is little question he did so. The Illinois Supreme Court has found that a "[d]efinition of the term ‘practice of law' defies mechanistic formulation." In re Discipio, 163 Ill. 2d 515, 523, 645 N.E.2d 906 (1994). Instead, in determining whether conduct amounts to the practice of law, the Court has examined the character of the conduct. Id. at 523. It is well established that a person engages in the practice of law when he gives advice or renders services that requires the use of legal knowledge or the skill to apply legal principles. In re Howard, 188 Ill. 2d 423, 438, 721 N.E.2d 1126 (1999); Discipio, 163 Ill. 2d at 523. The Court has articulated examples of conduct constituting the practice of law including, preparing or explaining legal instruments, preparing pleadings and other papers incident to actions, giving advice on questions of law, and giving an opinion regarding the right to maintain an action. In re Nash, 03 CH 128, M.R. 20418 (Nov. 22, 2005) (Hearing Bd. Rpt. at 26); Discipio, 163 Ill. 2d at 525.
Respondent was suspended from the practice of law from February 13, 2008, to June 13, 2008. In anticipation of his suspension, in January 2008, Respondent hired [an attorney] as an associate to work in his law office. [She] was a recent law school graduate, and had been licensed to practice law for three months. Respondent knew [she] was too inexperienced to assume full responsibility for his office.
During his suspension, Respondent essentially performed all the legal activities he would have performed if he had not been suspended, except having regular client contact and appearing in court. He was in constant contact with his office by telephone, e-mail and facsimile. He told [the associate] and [a paralegal] exactly what action to take on specific client matters. He received a daily report on each client matter and instructed [the associate] how to handle every aspect of each case. [The associate] did nothing without Respondent's approval. Respondent told her the arguments to make and the orders to request in court hearings. He dictated the language to be used and statements to be made in oral and written communications with clients and opposing counsel.
A pretty light sanction for a second offender whose offense was the violation of a suspension order. (Mike Frisch)