What If Your Attorney Becomes Disbarred?

Much happens if your attorney becomes disbarred while handling your case. If an attorney is disbarred, this means that he (or she) loses his professional license to practice law and is banned from doing so. This means that he will no longer be able to handle your property damage or personal injury claim or your lawsuit (or whatever other legal matter he was representing you in).


If your attorney has been disbarred, this means that he has been found unfit to practice law. This does not usually just happen all of a sudden. Usually other disciplinary actions have been taken against your attorney, such as reprimands, fines, suspension, counseling or education. In the comparatively rare instance of sudden disbarment, it is most likely due to a felony conviction or other serious crime.

Just because an attorney has been disbarred in one jurisdiction does not necessarily mean that he is disbarred in every jurisdiction. Many attorneys are licensed to practice law in more than one jurisdiction or state. It is wise to check with the bar association or legal licensing commission in your area before retaining the services of a specific attorney.

Disbarment is not necessarily permanent, either. An attorney who has lost his license to practice law may petition the applicable Court to have his professional license reinstated. Again, this information may be learned by making an inquiry with the state bar association or legal licensing commission.

The reason that you need to check this out yourself is that the attorney in question (whomever that might be) has no obligation to tell you if he is being investigated for possible disciplinary action, or if he was ever disbarred in the past prior to regaining his license. He is only obligated to notify you if he is currently unable to represent you for those reasons.

If an attorney becomes disbarred while in your employ or service, he is then obligated to notify you of that in a timely manner; usually within a couple of weeks of disbarment or suspension. At that point, he is no longer able to represent you and is required to return your case file to you. He may also return any money that you have already paid him for services that he has NOT provided. He is entitled to keep payment for work already completed. If you wish to have legal representation, you will need to find another attorney.

If you have a personal injury claim pending that is not in litigation, you will still need to meet Statute of Limitations requirements, but otherwise things may just be placed on hold while you look for a new attorney. If the case is in Suit, the judge should be aware of the situation with the disbarred attorney and allow you appropriate time to find another attorney to proceed with litigation.

If the disbarred attorney is non-cooperative and fails to notify clients and return case files, the judge in the jurisdiction where he has been disbarred may appoint a different lawyer to take care of those tasks. This does not mean that the judge-appointed lawyer is your new attorney.

This article is approved for informational purposes only and is not intended to take the place of competent local legal counsel.

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