Professional Regulation

FAQs for Suspended & Revoked Lawyers

FAQs for Lawyers Under a Suspension or Revocation Imposed By the Disciplinary Board [1]

 

1.    May I endorse and file a motion to withdraw or for substitution of counsel? Yes. A suspended attorney who endorses and/or files a motion to withdraw or a motion for substitution of counsel does not engage in the unauthorized practice of law. Such conduct is consistent with the suspended lawyer’s obligation to make appropriate arrangements for the disposition of matters in the lawyer’s care in conformity with the clients’ wishes. See, Part Six, Section IV, Paragraph 13-29 of the Rules of the Supreme Court of Virginia.

2.    May I make a court appearance in conjunction with a motion to withdraw or for substitution of counsel? Yes. A suspended attorney who makes a court appearance on a motion to withdraw or a motion for substitution of counsel does not engage in the unauthorized practice of law. Such conduct is consistent with the suspended lawyer’s obligation to make appropriate arrangements for the disposition of matters in the lawyer’s care in conformity with the clients’ wishes. See, Part Six, Section IV, Paragraph 13-29 of the Rules of the Supreme Court of Virginia.

3.    May I continue to work at my firm as a paralegal? No. Doing so would violate Rule 5.5(a) of the Rules of Professional Conduct. If not, may I work at the firm in any capacity (office manager, receptionist, file clerk, IT consultant)? No. Rule 5.5(a) forbids the firm from employing the suspended lawyer “in any capacity.”

4.    May I work at a new firm as a paralegal? Yes. As long as the new firm does not represent any client previously represented by the suspended lawyer or by any other lawyer with whom the suspended lawyer practiced on or after the date of the acts which resulted in the suspension. See Rule 5.5(b) of the Rules of Professional Conduct.

5.    May I continue to receive a paycheck from my firm? Yes, if the paycheck is for legal work performed prior to the suspension or if the paycheck is for work performed during the suspension in a non-legal capacity.

6.    If I am a shareholder in the firm, may I continue to receive revenues from my firm? A suspended lawyer may receive revenues only for work performed by him or other members of his firm during a period which predated the effective date of the lawyer’s suspension. See Rule 5.4.

7.    If my name is in the firm’s name, must the firm change the name while I am suspended? If so, must the firm print new letterhead, get a new sign, new website, etc.? It is considered the unauthorized practice of law for a suspended lawyer to hold himself out as authorized to practice law.  It is also “false and misleading” for a suspended lawyer to continue advertising and using letterhead, notices, and signage which state or imply that he is available to perform legal services. A lawyer should therefore take all practical steps to alter the content, or to discontinue use, of any medium of communication which advertises the suspended lawyer’s availability.  Firm names which are “trade names” containing the last name of a suspended lawyer, along with one or more other lawyers’ last names, need not be changed during the period of the lawyer’s suspension. However, a firm must amend its letterhead and all website and other advertising to either delete the name of the suspended lawyer or otherwise indicate his ineligibility to practice.

8.    May I continue to manage my firm’s trust account? No. It would be unethical for a suspended lawyer to manage a law firm’s trust account. See Rule 1.15 of the Rules of Professional Conduct. Business account? Yes. The Rules of Professional Conduct do not prohibit a suspended lawyer from managing a firm’s business account.

9.    May I negotiate liens on cases I settled prior to the suspension? No. The negotiation of a lien can involve the application of law to fact, and requires that the lawyer consult with and advise the client of the legal consequences which attend the client’s decision to authorize, or refuse to authorize, a proposed settlement of a third party’s claim against the client.

10.May I represent myself pro se in a court proceeding, i.e., to collect fees owed by a former client? Yes.

11.May I perform pro bono work? No. Such conduct by a suspended lawyer would constitute the unauthorized practice of law.

12.May I, with client consent, and having informed the client of my suspension, file a motion to continue the client’s matter to a later date after which my suspension has been lifted? No. A lawyer who is counsel of record in a case has continuing duties to the client of competence, diligence, and communication. A lawyer identified in a case file as counsel of record holds himself out as authorized to practice law and to receive notices and pleadings from the court and others. A suspended lawyer is not the proper recipient of pleadings filed in a case, or of other communications by or on behalf of the court and/or other litigants in pending litigation. A suspended lawyer may not respond as a client’s lawyer to other parties’ actions and filings in a pending case, and may not give legal advice to the client during the period of suspension. Accordingly, a suspended attorney must withdraw from every case in which he is counsel of record since counsel of record must at all times during the pendency of a case be authorized to practice law.  Following reinstatement, the formerly suspended lawyer may resume representation by substituting himself as counsel of record for the pro se client or for a licensed attorney who served as counsel of record for the client on an interim basis.

13.May I refer a client to another lawyer and collect a referral fee? No. Rule 7.3(b) prohibits a lawyer from giving anything of value to a person for referring a case. A referral fee is permitted if the requirements of Rule 1.5(e) are satisfied, but the sharing of fees as permitted by that Rule is not possible when one of the lawyers is suspended.

14.May I prepare an affidavit for my client’s successor lawyer for work performed and fees earned before my suspension on that client’s matter? Yes. Such conduct does not constitute the unauthorized practice of law.

15.May I bill and collect fees for work performed before my suspension? Yes. Such conduct does not constitute the unauthorized practice of law.

16.What do I need to do to have my license reinstated? It depends upon whether the suspension is with or without terms and whether the duration of the suspension exceeds one year. All suspended lawyers must comply with MCLE requirements. Lawyers who are suspended for more than one year must pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination before reinstatement. A lawyer may not return to good standing unless he or she has paid full dues for all years in which the lawyer was active or eligible to return to active practice. For more information about reinstatement following a misconduct suspension, see Part Six, Section IV, Paragraph 13-25 of the Rules of the Supreme Court of Virginia. The Virginia State Bar Membership Department may answer questions about MCLE compliance and dues payment. The number is (804) 775-0530.

17.May my office set up appointments with clients for dates after my suspension has expired? Yes. A suspended lawyer must notify all clients in writing of the suspension, pursuant to Part Six, Section IV, Paragraph 13-29 of the Rules of the Supreme Court of Virginia. No misrepresentations may be made regarding the lawyer’s suspension.

18.During my suspension, may I respond to or meet with clients having questions about my bills for past services rendered before my suspension? Yes, as long as the discussion does not involve the suspended lawyer providing legal advice.

19.During my suspension, may I continue to attend local bar association meetings and CLE seminars? Yes. May I hand out my business card at such events? Yes, as long as no misrepresentations are made regarding the suspension and/or the suspended lawyer’s authorization to practice law.

20.During my suspension may I discuss my former clients’ bills with them or their new attorneys without appearing in court? Yes, as long as the discussion does not involve the suspended lawyer providing legal advice.

21.Do I need to turn in my bar card until the suspension is over? No.

22.Do I have to take down or deactivate my law firm web page, Facebook page or LinkedIn page during my suspension? If I keep active the web page, Facebook page or Linked-In page, must I put a disclaimer or statement that my license has been suspended? If a suspended lawyer remains eligible to practice law in another jurisdiction, a disclaimer such as “NOT PRESENTLY AUTHORIZED TO PRACTICE LAW IN VIRGINIA” will be sufficient. If Virginia is the only jurisdiction of the licensure, then “NOT PRESENTLY AUTHORIZED TO PRACTICE LAW” is acceptable.

23.May I continue to serve as a mediator during my license suspension? Only if the parties are notified in advance and consent. Do I have to inform the parties in mediation that my law license has been suspended? Yes.

24.May I deposit or my office deposit advanced fees in my trust account for work that will not commence until after my suspension is over? No. A suspended lawyer may not give any legal advice or perform legal services on behalf of a client. A client who entrusts a lawyer with a legal matter should have unfettered access to that lawyer for advice and legal services, even when circumstances suggest that legal services need not be performed until a date following the suspended lawyer’s reinstatement. A client may have questions concerning his legal matter while the lawyer remains suspended, or circumstances may change, making it essential that the client’s legal matter be addressed before the suspended lawyer is reinstated. A client who wishes to engage a suspended lawyer to handle a legal matter should retain his own funds pending the lawyer’s reinstatement because the client’s resources may have to be used to engage a different lawyer should legal advice or action be necessary while the suspended lawyer remains ineligible to practice.

25.May I serve as a poll watcher or observer at a voter precinct during an election? The suspended lawyer must check with election officials to see if an active law license is required for such functions. Even if eligible to serve in such a capacity, if the lawyer was nominated or chosen for such a position because of the lawyer’s law license, he or she must correct the misapprehension that he or she is authorized to practice law.

26.If I apply for a new job or position as a lawyer, to commence work after my suspension is over, must I disclose in the application or my bio that my license was suspended? The answer depends upon what questions must be answered in the employment application. Even if the application, itself, does not expressly call for a recitation of the lawyer’s disciplinary history, it would be deceitful and thus ethical misconduct were the suspended lawyer to conceal the fact of the suspension if the application is submitted during the period of suspension and is based on an advertisement or job posting which seeks applications from attorneys admitted to practice in Virginia.

27.If I am licensed in another jurisdiction, must I self-report the suspension of my Virginia license to the other state’s professional regulatory authority? Probably, but it depends upon that jurisdiction’s rules. In Virginia, a lawyer must report discipline by another jurisdiction under Rule 8.3(e) of the Rules of Professional Conduct. Most states have a self-reporting requirement.

28.If my license is suspended for less than a year, must I still pay my bar dues and complete MCLE requirements for that year in which my license was suspended? Yes.

29.May my office continue to answer phones and calls from clients? Yes, as long as no misrepresentations are made about the suspension or the suspended lawyer’s authorization to practice law.

30.May my office remain open for clients to pick up files and refund unearned fees? Yes.

31.May I continue to serve as the administrator or executor of an estate? Yes, as long as the will does not require or assume that the administrator or executor is a licensed attorney. If the decedent designated the suspended lawyer because of his or her law license, then the suspended lawyer must resign upon suspension.

32.May I continue to serve on the legal committee for my homeowner’s assoc., my church, or other civic association? A suspended lawyer may continue to serve on boards and committees, but may not provide legal advice. If not, must I resign and explain that my license was suspended by the bar? If the position requires the suspended lawyer to give legal advice, the suspended lawyer must notify the board or committee in writing and must not provide further legal advice while suspended.

33.May I run for commonwealth’s attorney if my suspension will be over by the time the new commonwealth’s attorney takes office? Yes, but a suspended lawyer may not misrepresent the suspension or his or her authority to practice law during the suspension.

34.May I continue to assist my law firm with office lease renewal negotiations with the Landlord? Yes, if the negotiations do not involve the interpretation of law or the provision of legal advice.

35.I “claimed” a location on Google Maps as my law office. Do I need to compel Google to remove my claimed location? What if I cannot get the claimed location removed? Will I be subject to more discipline? A lawyer should make a diligent effort to have Google remove “law office” references to the claimed location. If the effort fails, the Bar will not seek to impose additional discipline. In some instances, such as with a paper phone book, it is simply either impossible or impractical to delete or modify references to a suspended attorney.

 

[1] The answers are the opinion of the Virginia State Bar Ethics Department and the Office of Bar Counsel. 

 

Updated: Mar 15, 2017