Do I Need an Attorney?
You may be contemplating hiring an attorney at various stages of an ethics, licensing or disciplinary matter: (a) prospectively before any problem has arisen, (b) at the informal stages, or (c) after receiving notice of a formal hearing. In the prospective phase, an attorney experienced in this practice area may be able to avoid or prevent issues before they become a licensing or disciplinary problem. In the formal stage, most professionals realize that an experienced attorney often is necessary to deal with opposing counsel, understand formal procedural rules, present evidence, cross examine witnesses and make effective arguments, among other things.
In our experience, most potential clients have the most uncertainty about whether an attorney is necessary at the informal stage of a licensing or disciplinary matter. There are at least three good reasons to hire in an experienced attorney at the informal stages that usually make it worth the expenditure:
- The informal stages are almost always the least expensive in which to involve an attorney and getting one involved early may avoid significant costs involved at the formal stage;
- The informal stages generally are the only ones where a professional can avoid public action because with most boards and agencies even a dismissal at the formal stage is public information; and
- The informal stages generally present the optimal chance for achieving the best possible result under the circumstances, including obtaining a new license, and avoiding any restrictions on or suspensions of your license;
Hiring an attorney, of course, cannot guarantee that these goals will be accomplished in every case. However, hiring an experienced attorney at the informal stages generally does increase the probability of achieving one or more of these objectives.
Which Attorney or Firm Should I Hire?
If you have decided that you need to hire an attorney for an ethics, licensing, or disciplinary matter, you may be wondering what to look for in selecting an attorney or firm. In a word: experience. Like most areas of law, experience handling licensing and disciplinary matters is important. Experience in other areas of law, even within a profession, does not necessarily translate well into representing someone before a licensing board or agency.
There are a number of questions we suggest that you should ask any attorney you are seeking to hire for such a matter. Below are these questions and our firm’s answers to them:
- How much of your practice is devoted to representing professionals before their respective licensing boards and agencies?
Our firm’s practice area consists almost entirely of representing professionals or aspiring professionals in licensing and disciplinary matters or related areas.
- Have you represented professionals in this type of proceeding?
Our firm assists professional clients with everything from providing counsel and advice, assisting with written responses, representing clients at the informal stages, and trying formal disciplinary hearings. We have significant experience at all stages of the licensing and disciplinary process.
- Have you handled matters before this specific licensing board or agency?
Representation in licensing and disciplinary matters generally is helpful in handling any such matter. Experience with a specific board and agency certainly is preferable. The Practice Area page of our site lists the licensing boards and agencies before which we have represented professional clients.
- Are you familiar with the staff and the attorney for my professional licensing board or agency?
Generally, we have good working relationships with the staff and attorneys for most of the professional licensing boards and agencies before whom we represent clients. This is particularly important at the informal stages of the process. Notwithstanding these relationships, we vigorously represent our clients, including at contested formal hearings when necessary.
- How much experience have you had in estimating or setting fees in licensing and disciplinary matters?
Concentrating our practice almost exclusively in this area, we strive to provide a realistic estimate of the amount of fees that will be involved or, alternatively, a fixed fee for the representation. Many attorneys who are not familiar with licensing and disciplinary matters often underestimate the complexity and amount of time involved, even in an informal proceeding. As a result, attorneys who do not do this type of work often estimate fees significantly below what the matter will eventually cost. If you receive an estimate or fee quote that you believe is low, we suggest that you make further inquiry to determine whether a firm or attorney has sufficient experience to provide a realistic estimate.