At Overlawyered, Ted Frank writes regarding the sweet plea deal of famed and now disgraced class action lawyer William Lerach:
[N]othing stops plaintiffs’ firms from offering small fortunes to Lerach to act as a “non-legal consultant.”
This is not accurate. Assuming that Lerach is disbarred for pleading to a felony, any attorney that attempts to employ him, or accept legal advice from him, may themselves run in to trouble. An ethics opinion by the New York City Bar concludes:
It is clearly improper for a lawyer or law firm to employ a disbarred or suspended attorney in any capacity related to the practice of law. What acts constitute the unauthorized practice of law is a question of law for the Appellate Division.
Other states may differ, but it would seem that in New York both Lerach and anyone who tried to employ him in some type of capacity related to the practice of law would find themselves at great risk for additional troubles. I have to assume that if Lerach gives guidance or legal consulting advice to another attorney, that most if not all other states would find that to be the unauthorized practice of law.
And I don’t think that simply calling himself a “non-legal consultant” in his area of specialty, as Frank suggests, would hold any water with a court. Because if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck…
[A Washington Post article on the plea deal is here]
(Eric Turkewitz is a personal injury attorney in New York)