How to Avoid Technical Disqualifications

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By George Khoury, Esq. on January 14, 2019 10:19 AM

When you're about to file a new case in a jurisdiction you've never filed before in, you might want to take a brief moment to review the local rules to make sure you crossed the right T's and dotted the important I's and made sure you were actually licensed in that jurisdiction.

As misfortune would have, two attorneys in a putative class action against Trustmark National Bank have become the subject of a motion to disqualify them as counsel because they are not licensed in the state the matter was filed in, and, purportedly, have not been admitted to practice in that federal court.

Pro Hac Vice Like a Pro

The attorneys facing disqualification may be in a tight spot if they haven't already filed for admission, or gotten admitted pro hac vice, as most, if not all courts, require all attorneys to be admitted, at least provisionally, before making an appearance on a case.

Generally, each court has a similar, but slightly different procedure and set of requirements for being admitted pro hac vice. Look them up (can usually be found in the court's local rules, or a state's rules of court), read them, and follow them to the letter before filing any pleading with your name on it.

Don't Sue Former Clients on Behalf of New Clients

Apart from forgetting to ensure you are admitted to practice in the jurisdiction you are filing in, the other big way lawyers end up disqualified usually involves a failure to conflict check.

And while you might expect conflict check failures from small firms, often it's the biggest firms or corporate legal departments with countless partners that end up in the hottest water. This is due to the fact that the more lawyers a firm employs, the more conflicts and former clients that firm will need to be checking for. In some cases, a partner can stick their foot in their mouth due to not even knowing who their other partners' clients are.

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