Thursday, August 27, 2015

Staff Attorney At Bismarck Firm Engaged In Unauthorized Practice

The North Dakota Supreme Court has admonished an attorney for the unauthorized practice of law.

From about September 2010 until late October or early November 2011, Gerber worked as a "staff attorney" in the Bismarck office of Fredrikson & Byron, P.A., a law firm based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. While in Bismarck, Gerber worked as a registered lobbyist, conducted title research, and assisted in drafting title opinions. Although Gerber was admitted to practice law in Minnesota in October 2010, Gerber has never been licensed to practice law in North Dakota.

The issue came to light when he applied for North Dakota bar admission. He later found a job in Minneapolis and withdrew the application.

The court

Here, we conclude clear and convincing evidence establishes that Gerber and his law firm held him out as someone authorized to practice law in North Dakota. The Fredrikson firm's news release plainly states Gerber was hired as an attorney in the firm's Bismarck office, identifying him as a "government relations specialist" and a "staff attorney." The release also states Gerber's "energy practice focuses on title examination and oil and gas law." The news release contained no disclaimers alerting the public to the fact that Gerber was not admitted to practice in North Dakota... addition to the law firm's news release, evidence establishes that Gerber identified himself as a "staff attorney" while working in Bismarck. Gerber self-identified as a "staff attorney" on his application for admission to the North Dakota Bar. He also identified himself as a "staff attorney" and a "government relations attorney" in an affidavit clarifying his duties to the State Board of Law Examiners. Gerber admittedly worked as a "staff attorney" or "government relations attorney" in Fredrikson's Bismarck office for over a year, logging 2,476.40 billable hours, of which 1,686.34 hours were billed to clients. Based on this record, we conclude clear and convincing evidence establishes that Gerber violated N.D.R. Prof. Conduct 5.5(d).

The court rejected the claim that the attorney's due process rights were violated. (Mike Frisch)

Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink


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