Ettiquettes of Disbarrment

Yesterday I heard from a longtime client. She called me to say that her opposing party called her and said he would be asking for a postponement for our hearing on Monday since he needed a new lawyer. I was curious, as opposing counsel, while generally disorganized, had not filed a motion to withdraw, that I had received. I told my client I would call opposing counsel and find out what was going on. When I called opposing counsel, her phone had been disconnected. So, on a hunch, I checked the attorney greivance log and was a little bit (but not terribly) surprised to see that she had been disbarred earlier this year.

I immediately told my coworker and my boss, since it was relevant to them, but I didn’t know if it was necessary to inform the court. The client’s other attorney for a related case and I share information back and forth, so I called him and let him know. Much like my coworkers, he thought it was a shame. There is something very sad and very final about being disbarred, and I felt horribly like I was gossiping when I informed counsel, but nonetheless, I feel that it was necessary. I also told my client, because it affected her – her opposing party will likely get a postponement because of this, which she wanted to fight, and I needed to let her know why it was likely he would be granted one.

I got a call from her today. That was where this got weird. Because she still called me and said, "this is attorney so and so, from this case". I was a little floored, and asked how she was doing. She told me that unfortunately, she needed to shut her practice down and was off the case. Then she told me that there would be a substitution of counsel and that her client would request a postponement. I told her that was fine, that I was already aware that there would be a postponement requested, that I had spoken to the other attorney, and then I wished her luck with everything and told her it had been a pleasure working with her, despite our clients. She told me that she would be back in a few years and that this was temporary. This is actually true, that a disbarred attorney can eventually be reinstated, but I felt nonetheless, awkward.

It was awkward because the disbarrment is public record, so she knew that I might know, but it was like we both politely agreed not to speak about that specifically. This is one of those sticky social situations they don’t warn you about in law school, like what you do if you run into opposing counsel at the pool or something. Has anyone else dealt with anything like this? Any tips?

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