Even In-House Attorneys Can Be Suspended

By Robyn Hagan Cain on April 26, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

It’s important to keep your state bar filings current. If you don’t submit the required updates at the required time, your license could be suspended. Even if you’re in-house.

Last week, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court concluded that a lower court had properly ordered a six-month suspension for an in-house attorney who kept practicing after her license was administratively suspended, BNA reports.

According to the opinion, Lauren Gustafson was admitted to the practice of law in 2008, and properly registered with the Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers 2009. When her employment address changed, she did not file a supplemental statement of changes to the information provided in her initial registration statement, nor did she file a registration statement or pay the associated fee as required in January, 2010. Five months later, the board filed a petition in the county court seeking Gustafson's suspension as an administrative matter.

The court entered an order against Gustafson in July, 2010. Thirty days later, she became subject to the provisions governing suspended attorneys, but she still failed to comply with state's requirements.

Maybe Gustafson was too busy at her new job to be bothered with paperwork. That year, she was hired as in-house counsel at a company having its headquarters in Massachusetts. When she subsequently submitted a registration statement, an affidavit in support of her request for reinstatement, and a check to the board upon receiving the job offer, the board returned the check, advising her that she owed additional amounts and providing further instructions.

Once again, Gustafson failed to comply. Eight months later, in July, 2011, bar counsel received a request for investigation alleging that, despite her ongoing suspension, Gustafson continued to be employed as an attorney.

Gustafson's patterns of half-measures toward compliance followed by periods of silence continued until a county court ordered that she be suspended for six months. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed that decision.

Much like attorneys engaged in traditional practice, in-house attorneys must follow state reporting rules. If you want to ensure that you get to keep that in-house gig, keep your state bar filings up-to-date.

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