VIRGINIA UPL OPINION 137


Restrictions on Activities of a Suspended Attorney.

You have advised that you are a sole practitioner and your license to practice law has been suspended for a period of thirty days. Your have posed six questions for the Committeeís consideration. Considering the immediacy of your situation, I have consulted with J. Robert Snoddy III, Chair of the Committee. At his direction, I am responding to those questions of behalf of the Committee.

You have first inquired if, during the period of your suspension, you may represent yourself on personal matters on past-due accounts, judgments, and other obligations owed to you as a result of your law practice. The Committee has earlier opined that a suspended lawyer may pursue payment of legal fees and costs due him from that period of time prior to his suspension, provided that he (1) proceeds pro se; (2) is attempting to collect only monies which are due him in his individual name and not in the name of a co-owner or partnership; and (3) informs opposing parties, counsel and the court that he is proceeding pro se and not in any capacity as a lawyer. See: UPL Opinion No. 130.

Second, you have asked if you may come to your law office during the period of your suspension if you place a proper sign on each door advising that the office is closed due to your suspension and if you keep the doors locked. It is the opinion of the Committee that, with such precautions, your presence in the office would be permissible.

Third, you have inquired if you may do legal research on files and/or dictate on files so longs as there are no letters, memoranda, or other correspondence sent out of your law office during the period of your suspension. The Committee is of the opinion that you may do legal research on files and that, so long as no transcription is made of your dictation until after the expiration of your period of suspension, you may also do such dictation.

Fourth, you have asked if, in the scheduling around the period of the suspension of your license, you may state and pursue as grounds for a motion for continuance the fact of your thirty-day suspension. The Committee believes that, since your suspension is public information, you are free to disseminate that information as necessary. In addition, the Committee cautions that you must conform your conduct to the requirements of Part Six, Section IV ¶13(J) of the Rules of the Supreme Court of Virginia, which requires you to give certified mail notice of your suspension to all clients, all opposing attorneys, and the presiding judges in all pending litigation.

Fifth, you have inquired if your law clerk, paralegals, and/or secretaries may work in your law office during the period of your suspension. Since Disciplinary Rule 3-104 requires that non-lawyer personnel may be employed by a lawyer or law firm to perform delegated functions under the direct supervision of a licensed attorney (emphasis added), and since you are a sole practitioner, the Committee is of the opinion that any nonlawyer personnel employed by you may not work in your law office during the period of your suspension since, as a suspended attorney, you would not be in a position to provide direct supervision or to take ultimate responsibility for the work of the nonlawyers. Thus, non-lawyer personnel working in a law office without such direct supervision would be engaged in the unauthorized practice of law.

Sixth, and finally, you have asked if the Virginia State Bar’s suspension of your license for thirty days would affect your qualifications to practice law in the federal court system or in other states. The Committee has earlier opined with regard to non-Virginia lawyers (1) appearing in (federal) bankruptcy court [See: UPL Opinions Nos. 65 and 113A]; (2) offering legislative, governmental and advisory services [See: UPL Opinion No. 100; and (3) practicing before state administrative agencies [See: UPL Opinion No. 113]. In addition, it appears that Rule 6, Section II of the U.S. District Court Rules for both the Eastern and Western Districts of Virginia addresses the issue you have raised.

Committee Opinion
January 8, 1990

 

Updated: Aug 28, 2006