Friday, December 2, 2022

Kansas Reinstates Attorney; Rejects Unauthorized Practice Allegations

The Kansas Supreme Court rejected contentions that a suspended attorney had engaged in unauthorized practice and ordered his reinstatement upon payment of required fees

Today we hold that a suspended attorney has not engaged in the unauthorized practice of law when the attorney merely indicates future representation is possible upon reinstatement and does not otherwise engage in any counseling, advising, or rendering services requiring legal knowledge while suspended. See 251 Kan. at 554 (finding a suspended attorney was not engaged in the practice of law while working as a law clerk because "he did not draft any of the documents, did not appear in court, and never offered advice or suggestions to" clients); State, ex rel., v. Hill, 223 Kan. 425, 425-27, 573 P.2d 1078 (1978) (a non-lawyer who had a franchise agreement to buy and resell kits that contained forms for obtaining a divorce in Kansas, completed sample forms, and written and audio instructions was not engaged in the practice of law because he did not personally provide legal advice, never represented himself to be an attorney, and advised at least some customers that he was not an attorney).

Holmes did not apply any law to the facts of his former client's case. He did not render services requiring his professional judgment, nor did he apply any part of his legal education to the specific legal problem of his client. The client knew that Holmes was suspended and not currently licensed to practice law. In fact, the client's wife approached Holmes because the client previously had positive experiences with Holmes' representation. Holmes merely indicated that upon his reinstatement—which he hoped would be imminent—he would readily return to representing his former client.

Holmes did not make any promises regarding future representation nor did he induce that client to rely on him for legal services during his suspension. We are unaware of any injury that the client suffered from Holmes' statements. We decline to extend the definition of the "unauthorized practice of law" to fit Holmes' conduct relevant to the January 8, 2021, informal admonition.

(Mike Frisch)

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