Things to Know Before Applying for Reinstatement to the Pennsylvania Bar after Administrative Suspension, Inactive Status or Retirement

by | Jun 18, 2020 | Character & Fitness / Ethics

Please note that this is not legal advice. See our disclaimer.

There may have come a time in your career where you no longer needed to practice law in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. It’s possible that you allowed your license to lapse by not filing your annual registration or not completing your yearly required CLE credits. You may have taken the affirmative steps to request that you be put on inactive status or that you be listed as retired. However, it has now become necessary for you to apply for reinstatement.

Beyond the procedure of reinstatement, there are some interesting things that are necessary to know about this process that may be helpful to you.

It is required that you complete 36 CLE credits, including 12 ethics credits, before you submit your Petition for Reinstatement. If you are not able to complete these credits, you will be required to file a Motion for Waiver. It is important to note that the Motion must be for good cause. It cannot be filed merely because it is too time-consuming to complete these credits. These credits go toward showing that you have the requisite legal knowledge to practice law.

One of the biggest concerns when filing a Petition for Reinstatement focuses on the practice of law in Pennsylvania while an applicant did not have a valid license to do so. Sometimes applicants have an active license to practice law in another state but they are transferred to do work physically in a Pennsylvania office, even if they are not going to court or representing clients. If you are in Pennsylvania and engaging in any form of law-related activities, it is essential that you review the tenants of Pa.R.D.E. 217 to see if you need to file a Notice of Employment. If you have not done this, then this will need to be addressed. If you have inadvertently practiced law in the Commonwealth without a valid license, it is best to address this issue in a straightforward and honest manner.

Similar to the original application to the bar exam, you will need to prove that you have the required character and fitness to resume the practice of law. Specifically, you will need to disclose any financial issues, any potential or actual criminal issues, and show that you are in good standing if you have a law license in another state. It is necessary that you answer these questions honestly as any evasion will cause harm to your application.

Another concern that applicants have is related to the amount of time the process will take. This is not a quick procedure as it requires the Disciplinary Board to complete a background investigation. Following your application, the Office of Disciplinary Counsel has 60 days to conduct its investigation and issue their recommendation to grant or deny the Petition. Following this recommendation, the application is reviewed by a Member of the Board. The Member is responsible for issuing a Report and Recommendation, which is forwarded to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The Supreme Court will review the Petition as well as the Report and Recommendation before they issue an Order either granting or denying the reinstatement.

Even if no impediments that might call into question a Petition for Reinstatement, the process takes several months. There are no shortcuts or requests that the Petition be expedited. This can be extremely frustrating but it is a necessary process to ensure that all applicants have the required knowledge of law and character and fitness to practice.

Lastly, as a small point of interest, an applicant can only apply for reinstatement to active status. If an applicant is administratively suspended and they wish to transfer to either inactive or retired status, they are still required to file the Petition for Reinstatement, be re-admitted to the Bar as an active member and then transfer to inactive or retired status. There are no other means to go from administrative suspension to inactive or retired status.

If you require guidance or further information about reinstating your law license, then please contact Hornstine Law, LLC at 215-568-4968.

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