For many years, Ohio law firms have been permitted to hire suspended or otherwise disqualified lawyers if they register the employment with the Office of Disciplinary Counsel. Effective September 1, 2008, new restrictions have been placed on such employment1, including prohibiting direct client contact and handling of client trust funds or property by the suspended or disqualified lawyer.
Many law firms and their clients have benefited from suspended or disqualified lawyers performing legal research and writing. Yet, restriction has been placed on that type of employment as well. If the employer wishes that the suspended or disqualified lawyer perform legal research and writing on client matters, the client must receive advance notice in writing2. The suspended or disqualified lawyer may perform other tasks in the law office not related to client matters without client notification.
Registration of Employment – As in the past, the employing law firm must register employment of a suspended or disqualified lawyer with the Office of Disciplinary Counsel on a form provided by the office. Suspended lawyers may continue working with the firm they worked in prior to their suspension but disqualified lawyers may not work in the firm they worked in prior to their disqualification3. The employing law firm must list the duties to be performed, provide the name of the lawyer supervising the disqualified or suspended lawyer, and furnish an affidavit stating they have read and understand the court order relating to the suspension or disqualification4. Upon receipt and acknowledgement of the registration form and affidavit by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel, the employment of the suspended or disqualified lawyer may begin.
No Direct Client Contact – The suspended or or disqualified lawyer must avoid direct contact with clients, other than acting as an observer in meetings between lawyers and firm clients5. Direct client contact includes communication by telephone, mail, email and the like.