I’ve written a good bit over the last few months about a variety of issues related to problems involving unauthorized practice of law issues for lawyers licensed in at least one jurisdiction. Tennessee still has the pending petition filed by the Board of Law Examiners that should result in some form of practice pending admission rule that will eventually lessen instances in which lawyers coming to Tennessee might unwittingly find themselves at risk of being treated as having engaged in UPL. I look forward to providing some additional information about events impacting that proposal in the coming weeks.
In the meantime, here is another reminder of the ways in which lawyers can not only find themselves running afoul of ethics rules through cross-border practice. This lawyer’s situation is not one where the practice was at all occasional, as the record indicated that settling insurance claims for clients in Delaware was 10-15% of this practice during the periods in question. His problem was that he was only licensed in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. His problems are also a reminder that, through reciprocal discipline mechanics, this kind of misconduct can result in multiple hits of discipline, even including jurisdictions where you were never licensed in the first place. The good news for this particular New Jersey-based lawyer is that he’s now been reinstated in Pennsylvania, one of two jurisdictions where his privileges to practice law were suspended as result of his unauthorized practice in Delaware.
In modern practice, wrestling with whether conduct is UPL under a jurisdiction’s version of RPC 5.5 can be tricky. Deceptive use of UPC codes to save money on wine is an altogether different kind of tricky though. That was part of the dishonest conduct leading to this Ohio lawyer making news for a two-year suspension arising out of stealing wine and then misleading disciplinary authorities about it. Other than being a bit bizarre, this offers an effective reminder that RPC 8.4(b) and (c) extend in reach to acts by lawyers outside of the context of their representation of a client. It’s also a reminder for lawyers that the reach of disciplinary proceedings can extend quite far back into your past. In this instance, the lawyer ended up on the radar screen because, after getting arrested for the last of a series of a half-dozen incidents of swapping out the UPC codes on bottles of wine to pay much less at checkout for the product, the lawyer made a self-report about the conduct. Unfortunately, the self-report came across as more self-serving and didn’t disclose everything the disciplinary authorities considered germane. Thus, the order imposing the suspension the fact that the same lawyer had also eleven years earlier been arrested for just trying to shoplift 12 bottles of wine from a large grocery store chain and that the lawyer didn’t disclose this fact in making the report.
Vino? Yes. Veritas? Not so much and that was the problem.