Hiring a Disbarred Colleague May Jeopardize Your Own License
Would you consider hiring a disbarred or suspended friend or colleague?
While most law firms would not consider hiring a disbarred or suspended attorney, there may come a time when a close colleague or friend looses his or her law license and your impulse is to help that person by hiring him or her as a law clerk. Your first consideration is to learn why this person was disbarred. Do not rely on what that person tells you. It’s human nature to downplay the gravity of our wrongdoings and blame others. The State Bar web site is an easy and quick way to confirm the facts and circumstances resulting in this person’s disbarment or suspension.
If the offense involves theft of client funds or other law related dishonesty, and your friend fails to show the requisite remorse, then I suggest that you not hire this person. If the person shows remorse and accepts full responsibility for his or her misconduct, then you may wish to hire this person in a very limited capacity with the understanding that this person’s presence in the firm will be closely monitored.
Rule 1-311 of the Rules of Professional Conduct sets forth the limited tasks that can be performed by the disbarred or suspended member. Essentially, this person can only function as a law clerk and/or clerical assistant. Additionally, the employing firm must report to the State Bar and the affected clients the fact of the employment of the disbarred member as a law clerk. The exception to this reporting requirement is where the disbarred or suspended attorney will only be hired to perform support activities, such as equipment maintenance, courier services, or as a receptionist.
After you decide that this person is an acceptable candidate for hire, you should determine if this person will be able to adapt to the lesser role of law clerk within the firm and not insist upon being a self-appointed supervisor to the other firm employees, including associate attorneys. Will this person’s ego allow them to accept and strictly follow the instructions from the firm’s associate attorneys? Will this person be able to resist the urge to advise and counsel clients?
These are some of the tasks that Rule 1-311 prohibits being performed by disbarred and suspended members. Obviously, you should review Rule 1-311 in its entirety before deciding to hire a disbarred or suspended member.
Your friend has already lost his or her license to practice. Any breach of the proscriptions of Rule 1-311 by your friend becomes your violation of the Rule for which you can be disciplined. The desire to assist a disbarred or suspended friend or colleague is commendable. But when your law license can be put at risk, charity begins at the office with your clients and your law firm being the primary consideration.
The information in this blog post (“post”) is provided for general informational purposes only, and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information contained in this post should be construed as legal advice from Reid & Hellyer, APC or the individual author, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information included in, or accessible through, this Post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.