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FAQs for Attorneys

  1. General Questions
  2. Attorney Registration
  3. Responding To A Complaint
  4. Reporting Misconduct
  5. Disbarments, Suspensions & Transfers To Inactive Status
  6. Employing Disbarred, Suspended, Or Inactive Attorneys
  7. Attorney Reinstatement

I. General Questions

Where can I find the ethics rules online?

An ethical question has arisen in the course of my practice of law. Should I contact the Office of Disciplinary Counsel for advice, guidance and an ethics opinion?

No. The policy of the Disciplinary Board is that neither the Disciplinary Board nor Disciplinary Counsel will provide advice, guidance or advisory opinions on specific matters that may come before the Disciplinary Board on complaint. Attorneys who are members of the Pennsylvania Bar Association and who have a question concerning their own prospective ethical conduct regarding a current situation are referred to the Ethics Hotline of the Pennsylvania Bar Association, (800) 932-0311 Ext. 2214 or (717) 238-6715 [note: this service is not available to the general public or to attorneys who are not members of the Pennsylvania Bar Association]. Philadelphia Bar Association members are also referred to the Professional Guidance Committee of the Philadelphia Bar Association at (215) 238-6328. In some instances, these organizations may issue a formal written ethics opinion. Ethics opinions issued by the Pennsylvania and Philadelphia Bar Associations are not binding on the Disciplinary Board. Attorneys with ethical concerns should also consider consulting with an attorney experienced in matters involving attorney ethics and disciplinary procedures. Appropriate steps should always be taken to document efforts to obtain counsel and advice as well as the results of those efforts. An attorney's efforts to obtain guidance and advice may be relevant during a future disciplinary inquiry by the Disciplinary Board.

II. Attorney Registration

Common Terms Related to Attorney Registration

Read the definitions of these terms often used within attorney registration.

Can I complete my annual attorney registration online? 

Yes. Attorneys can complete and submit the annual attorney registration through Pennsylvania’s Unified Judicial System web portal. Click here to complete the registration.

The website is open for online payment processing from the first week of May and closes in late October.

What are the attorney registration requirements in Pennsylvania?

Pennsylvania Rules of Disciplinary Enforcement (Pa.R.D.E.) 219 and 502 and Pennsylvania Rule of Professional Conduct (Pa.R.P.C.) 1.15 provide that every attorney admitted to practice in any court of this Commonwealth shall file an annual registration statement and pay an annual fee for use of the Disciplinary Board, for use of the Pennsylvania Lawyers Fund for Client Security and for use of the Pennsylvania Interest on Lawyers Trust Account Board. A portion of the Disciplinary Board and PA Lawyers Fund fee is also used to fund Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers, a program to assist lawyers suffering from serious addictive illnesses. For additional information contact: Attorney Registration Office, 601 Commonwealth Avenue, Suite 5600, Harrisburg, PA  17120; Phone:  717-231-3380, Fax: (717) 231-3381. For more information regarding the Lawyers Fund, click here and for questions concerning IOLTA, click here.

How do I return to Active status if I have been Retired, Inactive or Administratively Suspended for less than three (3) years?

Retired: An attorney on retired status for three years or less may be reinstated to active status by filing the annual registration statement and paying the active annual fee for the three most recent years or such shorter period in which the attorney was on retired status, and any arrears accumulated prior to the assumption of retired status.

Inactive: An attorney on inactive status for three years or less may be reinstated to active status by filing the annual registration statement and paying the current active annual fee for the assessment year in which the request is made or the difference between the active annual fee and the inactive annual fee that has been paid for that year, and any arrears accumulated prior to the assumption of inactive status.

Administrative Suspension: An attorney on administrative suspension for three years or less shall file the annual registration statement or an Administrative Change in Status form and pay the current annual fee; the annual fee that would have been due if the person had not been administratively suspended; the late payment penalties; a reinstatement fee of $300.00 or a processing fee of $100.00, if you were inactive prior to being placed on administrative suspension.

A validated license card will be mailed showing that you have registered for the current assessment year and are authorized to practice law in Pennsylvania. You may elect to remain on active status in the Pennsylvania Bar even if you move from Pennsylvania or cease active practice. Under such circumstances, however, you must continue to pay the active annual fee under Pa.R.D.E. 219. The Pennsylvania Attorney’s Annual Fee form is our renewal statement and can be downloaded here.

How do I return to Active status if I have been Retired, Inactive or Administratively Suspended for more than three (3) years?

If you wish to resume practice, you must file a petition for reinstatement with the Disciplinary Board pursuant to Pa.R.D.E. 218. You will be required to complete accredited PACLE courses and prove that you have the moral qualifications, competency and learning in the law required for admission to practice in the Commonwealth. Please click here for the necessary forms.

How do I assume Inactive Status?

An attorney who is not engaged in practice in Pennsylvania, has sold his or her practice pursuant to Pa.R.P.C. 1.17, or is not required by virtue of his or her position elsewhere to maintain active licensure in the Commonwealth may request voluntary inactive status or continue that status once assumed by filing the annual registration statement and paying an inactive annual fee of $70.00. The attorney shall be removed from the roll of those classified as active and in good standing until such person requests and is granted reinstatement to the active rolls. Noncompliance with this provision will result in the inactive attorney being placed on administrative suspension. (You will not be issued a License card).

How do I apply for Retired Status?

An attorney who has retired shall file with the Attorney Registration Office an application for retirement. Upon transmission of such application from the Attorney Registration Office to the Supreme Court, the Court shall enter an order transferring the attorney to retired status, and the attorney shall no longer be eligible to practice law. The retired attorney is relieved from payment of fees imposed by this rule upon active practitioners and those on inactive status and Pa.R.D.E. 217 shall not be applicable. An attorney on retired status for three years or less may be reinstated in the same manner as an inactive attorney, except that the retired attorney is required to pay the active annual fee for the three most recent years or such shorter period in which the attorney was on retired status instead of the fee amounts required to be paid by an inactive attorney seeking reinstatement. For additional information contact:  Attorney Registration Office, 601 Commonwealth Avenue, Suite 5600, Harrisburg, PA  17120, Phone: 717-231-3380.

Can I represent clients informally if I am on Retired or Inactive Status?

No. If you are on retired or inactive status, you are not permitted to engage in any activity which constitutes practice as a Pennsylvania lawyer. You may not advise clients as to Pennsylvania law, contact third parties or courts in a representative capacity, file any document with a court on behalf of another, or work in a position which requires you to be a lawyer in good standing or work on a pro bono basis.

What if I have recently paid the annual fee and now wish to assume Inactive status?

A form shall be filed with the Attorney Registration Office that the attorney desires to voluntarily assume inactive status and discontinue the practice of law. Upon transmission of such notice, the attorney will be registered as inactive, and shall no longer be eligible to practice law but shall continue to file the statement and pay the inactive annual fee required by this rule. Click here to download the form to assume inactive status.

Note: If you have a valid license card, it must be returned with the completed form.

What if I have recently paid the annual fee and now wish to assume Retired status?

An application shall be filed with the Attorney Registration Office that the attorney desires to retire. Upon transmission of such notice from the Attorney Registration Office to the Supreme Court, the Court shall enter an order transferring the attorney to retired status, and the attorney shall no longer be eligible to practice law. Click here to download the form to assume retired status. If you have a valid license card, it must be returned with the completed form.

How do I return to Active status if I was a justice or judge?

A justice or judge who retires or resigns from the bench and is not the subject of an outstanding order of discipline affecting his or her right to practice law and who wishes to resume the practice of law shall file with the Attorney Registration Office a notice in writing to that effect. In turn, the Attorney Registration Office will forward a waiver of confidentiality and registration statement requesting payment of the full active annual fee for the assessment year in which the notice is filed.

Whom do I notify if I am elected or appointed to a State or Federal Court of record in Pennsylvania?

A notice that you have been elected or appointed shall be filed with the Attorney Registration Office. Rule 219(b), Pa.R.D.E. states that Justices and Judges serving in the following Pennsylvania courts of record shall be exempt for such time as they serve in office: Supreme, Superior, Commonwealth, Common Pleas, and Philadelphia Municipal; and justices or judges serving an appointment for life on any federal court.

Note: The exemption does not include Philadelphia Traffic Court judges, Pittsburgh Municipal Court judges, magisterial district judges, arraignment court magistrates or administrative law judges.

How do I update my address?

In order to update your official address of record, click here to submit your address change online or complete the Request for Address Update form and either fax or mail it to the Attorney Registration Office. All changes in address and other information requested on the annual fee form must be reported to the Attorney Registrar within thirty (30) days after such change. You must designate an address to be available to the public through the Board’s Web site or by written or oral request. Upon an attorney’s written request submitted to the Attorney Registrar and for good cause shown, the contact information provided by the attorney will be nonpublic information and will not be published on the Board’s website or otherwise disclosed.

How can I update my professional liability insurance information?

In order to update your professional liability insurance information, click here and fax or mail the completed form to the Attorney Registration Office.  The Disciplinary Board will make the information regarding insurance available to the public upon written or oral request and on its website. The requirement of Rule 219(d)(3) is that every attorney who has filed an annual registration form must notify the Attorney Registration Office in writing of any change in the information previously submitted within 30 days after such change will apply.

How do I change my registered name?

If your name changes and you choose to practice under your new name, you must notify the Attorney Registrar of the name under which you will practice. To do so, complete the following steps: 1) Complete a Request for Name Change form; 2) Attach an official document authorizing the name change (i.e. marriage certificate, notice of intention to retake prior name, divorce decree, court order, etc.). Fax or mail the completed form to the Attorney Registration Office. You may not simply practice under a name other than that by which you were admitted, whether your name changes by court action or by informal means such as change in marital status. If any change in your name occurs, you must pursue the change of name process within thirty (30) days after the change in name.

What if I lose my license card or annual fee form?

You can obtain a replacement license card or duplicate annual fee form by contacting: Attorney Registration Office, 601 Commonwealth Avenue, Suite 5600, Harrisburg, PA 17120; Phone: 717-231-3380; Fax: 717 231-3381. Please include your full name, attorney identification number, and a daytime phone number or email address, and indicate whether you need a license card or annual fee form. There is no fee for this service.

What happens if I let my registration lapse?

An attorney who fails to complete registration by July 31st shall be automatically assessed a non-waivable late payment penalty. A second, non-waivable late payment penalty shall be automatically added to the delinquent account of an attorney who has failed to complete registration by August 31st, at which time the continued failure to comply with this rule shall be deemed a request to be administratively suspended. Thereafter, the Attorney Registration Office shall certify to the Supreme Court the name of every attorney who has failed to comply with the registration and payment requirements. Notice will be sent by certified mail when the order is entered.  The attorney may not thereafter practice law within the Commonwealth after the order takes effect and shall promptly notify all clients by registered or certified mail and otherwise comply with all requirements of Pa.R.D.E. 217 relating to formerly admitted attorneys.

How much is my annual fee?

Active Annual Fee: $200.00
Inactive Annual Fee: $70.00
Retired: No Fee

Penalties: July 31st - $100.00 non-waivable late payment penalty; August 31st – second, non-waivable late payment penalty of $100.00; Returned Check Fee is $50.00.

Please call the Attorney Registration Office if you are unsure of your total amount due at (717) 231-3380.

How many CLE credits do I need and what is my Group Number?

Please contact the Pennsylvania Continuing Legal Education Board at 717-231-3250 or for any information relating to CLE, click here.

How do I obtain a Certificate of Good Standing?

If you are an active attorney, you may request a Certificate of Good Standing from the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania Prothonotary’s Office. Please call one of the following numbers for additional information:

  • 215-560-6370 (Philadelphia)
  • 717-787-6181 (Harrisburg)
  • 412-565-2816 (Pittsburgh)

If I am inactive, what type of Certificate can I obtain?

If you are an inactive attorney, you may request a Certification of Status in Lieu of a Certificate of Good Standing. Click here. This request needs to be made in writing to: Attorney Registration Office, 601 Commonwealth Avenue, Suite 5600, Harrisburg, PA 17106, Phone: 717-231-3380.

Please be sure to include:

  • your registered name,
  • PA ID number or SS Number,
  • reason for request,
  • a check/money order for $25.00 (made payable to Attorney Registration), and
  • a pre-paid self-addressed envelope.

Any additional original copies are also $25.00.

Upon receipt, the Certification will be issued and returned within two to three business days. The certification will be mailed in the envelope provided, unless otherwise requested. If there is a need for an expedited certification, you can send the request via overnight delivery with a pre-paid overnight return envelope. This request will be processed within one business day.

How do I obtain a statement regarding disciplinary complaints filed and/or discipline imposed?

If you need a statement regarding your fitness to practice, complete this form, which states that you authorize the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania to search and release any information (public or private) found in your disciplinary file. Please provide a check/money order for $25.00 (made payable to PA Disciplinary Board) and a pre-paid self-addressed envelope.

To obtain a statement, send the completed form, the $25 check/money order and a self-addressed stamped envelope to the Office of the Chief Disciplinary Counsel at Pennsylvania Judicial Center 601 Commonwealth Avenue, Suite 2700 - P.O. Box 62485 - Harrisburg, PA 17106; Telephone: 717-783-0990.

How do I become licensed to practice law in Pennsylvania?

Detailed information about procedures can be obtained from the Pennsylvania Board of Law Examiners Office at 717-231-3350 or by clicking here to visit their website.

How do I contact the PA IOLTA Board?

For questions concerning IOLTA or exemptions from IOLTA, please call the IOLTA Board at 717-238-2001 or 1-888-PAIOLTA or click here.

How can I find out if my bank is approved as a repository for a client trust account?

A full list of fiduciary institutions approved to hold lawyer trust accounts, and the codes you will need to report your accounts, is available here.

III. Responding To A Complaint

Will I know if a complaint has been filed against me?

Not necessarily. You will be notified in writing if an investigation is serious enough to warrant requesting information/documentation from you.

What should I do if I get a letter of inquiry from the Office of Disciplinary Counsel?

First, do not panic. Read the letter through. Remember that the alleged facts set forth are allegations only. We rely on attorneys who receive these letters to provide us with clarifying information. This letter provides an attorney with an opportunity to set forth your version of the facts of the matters. As is stated in our letter, we have not prejudged the matter.

Many of our complaints in which we send such letters end in the dismissal of the complaint, once we have the attorney's position. It may not be necessary for you to retain counsel before responding. If you do not feel at ease in responding, or feel that you may in fact have violated the Pa.R.P.C. or Rules of Disciplinary Enforcement, it may be wise for you to at least consult with counsel before responding. You, of course, have the right to counsel in such cases.

IV. Reporting Misconduct

Am I obligated to report any violation of the Pa.R.P.C.?

PA.R.P.C. 8.3(a) states that a lawyer having knowledge that another lawyer has committed a violation of the Pa.R.P.C. that raises a substantial question as to that lawyer's honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other respects, shall inform the appropriate professional authority. The comment to PA.R.P.C. 8.3 states:" This Rule limits the reporting obligation to those offenses that a self-regulating profession must vigorously endeavor to prevent. A measure of judgment is, therefore, required in complying with the provision of this Rule. The term 'substantial' refers to the seriousness of the possible offense and not the quantum of evidence of which the lawyer is aware. A report should be made to the bar disciplinary agency unless some other agency, such as a peer review agency, is more appropriate in the circumstances." Moreover, PA.R.P.C. 8.3(c) does not require reporting where it would involve a violation of the Confidentiality Rules of PA.R.P.C. 1.6 nor does it apply to a lawyer retained to represent a lawyer whose professional conduct is in question. Finally there is an exemption with respect to information that would be privileged if the relationship between the impaired lawyer and the recipient of the information were that of a client and lawyer. See Comment.

If I conclude I must or should report a fellow attorney or file a complaint with the Disciplinary Board, how should I do so?

Instructions for filing complaints, including a list of documentation which should be provided if available, are found here. You may either submit a letter or use the Disciplinary Board's complaint forms, but or complaints must be in writing.

V. Disbarments, Suspensions & Transfers To Inactive Status

When does by disbarment, suspension or transfer to inactive status take effect?

All of these orders take effect 30 days after the date of the Court’s order, unless a suspension or disbarment is made retroactive to a date of temporary suspension. In this case, the order will clearly state that the discipline is retroactive and will also include the effective date.

Am I still allowed to practice until the order takes effect?

Rule 217(d), Pa.R.D.E. states that after the entry of the order, an attorney shall not accept any new retainer or engage as attorney for another in any new case or legal matter of any nature. However, during the period from the entry of the order and its effective date the formerly admitted attorney may wind up and complete, on behalf of any client, all matters which were pending on the entry date.

Can I transfer my client files to another attorney?

No. Each client is to be put in a position to make an informed choice as to who is to represent him or her in connection with the legal matter in which you represented the client, and his or her expressed directions must be observed by you. When a new attorney is selected by the client, you must promptly make the client’s file available to the new attorney.

Can I be compensated for work I performed on the file?

Yes. You are not to share in any fee for legal services performed by another attorney after your order takes effect, but you may be compensated for the reasonable value of your services rendered and disbursements incurred prior to the effective date of the order. In no event should the reasonable value of your services, and those of the substituted attorney, exceed the amount the client would have had to pay, had no substitution of counsel been required.

Do I have to do anything with my wall certificate of admission?

Rule 217(h), Pa.R.D.E. states that within 10 days after the effective date of the order, attorneys who have been disbarred or suspended for a period longer than one year, must surrender to the Disciplinary Board the Attorney I.D. card for the current year, along with any Certificates of Good Standing issued by the Prothonotary of the Supreme Court and any Certificates of Admission issued by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. The Board will retain these Certificates and will return them to the attorney in the event he or she is subsequently reinstated.

When am I required to pay the costs of my disciplinary proceeding?

Rule 208(g), Pa.R.D.E. provides that the Supreme Court in its discretion may direct that the necessary expenses incurred in the investigation and prosecution of a proceeding which results in the imposition of discipline shall be paid by the respondent-attorney within 30 days after entry of the order taxing the expenses against the attorney.

Can I work as a paralegal or legal assistant after the effective date of the order?

Rule 217(j), Pa.R.D.E. states that a formerly admitted attorney may not engage in any form of law-related activities in this Commonwealth except in accordance with requirements within that Rule. Click here to see Rule 217(j) Also see Section VI EMPLOYING DISBARRED, SUSPENDED, OR INACTIVE ATTORNEYS

Where can I get the compliance forms for Formerly Admitted Attorneys?

VI. Employing Disbarred, Suspended, Or Inactive Attorneys

A colleague of mine was suspended from the practice of law a few years ago and is down on his luck. He seems to have reformed and he is interested in getting back into the practice of law. I would like to offer him some work doing research and drafting with my office. Is it ethical for me to hire a suspended lawyer, and what limitations should I put on his duties?

Rule 217(j) of the Rules of Disciplinary Enforcement now sets very specific guidelines as to what law-related work a disbarred, suspended, or inactive former attorney may do. The formerly admitted attorney MAY do the following:

  • legal work of a preparatory nature, such as legal research, assembly of data and other necessary information, and drafting of transactional documents, pleadings, briefs, and other similar documents;
  • direct communication with the client or third parties regarding a matter being handled by the attorney or firm for which the formerly admitted attorney works only if the communication is limited to ministerial matters such as scheduling, billing, updates, confirmation of receipt or sending of correspondence and messages, provided that the formerly admitted attorney shall clearly indicate in any such communication that he or she is a legal assistant and identify the supervising attorney; and
  • accompanying a member in good standing of the Bar of this Commonwealth to a deposition or other discovery matter or to a meeting regarding a matter that is not currently in litigation, for the limited purpose of providing clerical assistance to the member in good standing who appears as the representative of the client.

The formerly admitted attorney shall NOT do any of these activities:

  • performing any law-related activity for a law firm or lawyer if the formerly admitted attorney was associated with that law firm or lawyer on or after the date on which the acts which resulted in the disbarment or suspension occurred, through and including the effective date of disbarment or suspension;
  • performing any law-related services from an office that is not staffed, on a full time basis, by a supervising attorney;
  • performing any law-related services for any client who in the past was represented by the formerly admitted attorney;
  • representing himself or herself as a lawyer or person of similar status;
  • having any contact with clients either in person, by telephone, or in writing, except as provided above;
  • rendering legal consultation or advice to a client;
  • appearing on behalf of a client in any hearing or proceeding or before any judicial officer, arbitrator, mediator, court, public agency, referee, magistrate, hearing officer or any other adjudicative person or body;
  • appearing as a representative of the client at a deposition or other discovery matter;
  • negotiating or transacting any matter for or on behalf of a client with third parties or having any contact with third parties regarding such a negotiation or transaction; or
  • receiving, disbursing or otherwise handling client funds.

You and the formerly admitted attorney must file a notice of employment with the Disciplinary Board, identifying the supervising attorney, certifying that the formerly admitted attorney has been employed and that the formerly admitted attorney's activities will be monitored for compliance with these requirements. You should also file a notice with the Disciplinary Board upon termination of the formerly admitted attorney's services.

Be very careful to familiarize yourself with these requirements and supervise the work of a formerly admitted attorney in your employment, as Rule 217(j)(6) specifically states that you may be subject to discipline for any failure by either you or the formerly admitted attorney to comply with these requirements.

VII. Attorney Reinstatement

Click here for a complete set of the Enforcement Rules and Disciplinary Board Rules applicable to filing for reinstatement.

A. General Information about Reinstatement

What CLE courses must I take to file for reinstatement?

The Current Schedule of Continuing Legal Education Courses Required for Reinstatement Under §§89.275 and 89.279 requires that all formerly admitted attorneys take a minimum of thirty-six (36) hours of accredited PA CLE courses with a minimum twelve (12) of those hours in the area of Ethics. Click here to download the Current Schedule.

When do I have to complete my 36 hours of CLE courses?

Only courses taken within one year preceding the filing of the petition for reinstatement are credited.

Can I file for reinstatement even if I haven't taken all of the CLE courses?

No. Recent amendments to the Disciplinary Board's Rules and Procedures require that all courses be completed prior to filing for reinstatement.

Do I have to provide proof of attendance at the CLE courses I have already taken?

Yes. CLE providers have 30 days after presentation of the course to file the list of attendees with the PA CLE Board. If completed courses are not yet on CLE's records and proof of attendance is not attached to the Reinstatement Questionnaire, the petition for reinstatement will be returned to you as "incomplete." You may obtain a copy of your PA CLE Course Record by accessing the MyPACLE login from the Pennsylvania Continuing Legal Education Board's website at www.pacle.org or by calling the PA CLE office at 800-497-2253.

Is there a filing fee for petitions for reinstatement filed with the Disciplinary Board?

No. However, the Board will recommend to the Supreme Court that the costs incurred in processing the petition for reinstatement be paid by the petitioner at the end of the proceeding.

Where do I file my petition for reinstatement?

All petitions for reinstatement and accompanying forms and documents must be filed with the Office of the Secretary of the Disciplinary Board, located at 601 Commonwealth Avenue, Suite 5600, PO Box 62625, Harrisburg, PA 17106-2625.

B. FAQ by Attorneys on Inactive Status, Retired Status or Administrative Suspension

Can I pay all my back fees and avoid the reinstatement process?

No. Rule 218, Pa.R.D.E. states that no attorney who has been on retired, status, inactive status or administrative suspension for more than three years may resume practice until reinstated by order of the Supreme Court after the filing of a petition for reinstatement.

How do I apply to be reinstated if I have been on inactive status, retired status or administrative suspension for more than three years?

You must file a petition for reinstatement with the Office of the Secretary of the Disciplinary Board.- In addition to the petition, a Special Reinstatement Questionnaire must be completed and filed in quadruplicate and four (4) notarized original Waivers of Confidentiality must be submitted. Click on the links to download the appropriate forms.

What happens after I file my petition for reinstatement?

Rule 218(b)(2), Pa.R.D.E. was recently amended to provide that after a petition for reinstatement is filed with the Board, it is referred to the Office of Disciplinary Counsel (ODC), who has 60 days to file a response to the petition and serve a copy on the formerly admitted attorney. If Disciplinary Counsel objects to the reinstatement, the response to the petition should explain in reasonable detail the reasons for the objection.

What happens if ODC objects to my reinstatement?

If Disciplinary Counsel objects to the reinstatement, the response to the petition will explain in reasonable detail the reasons for the objection. After the response is filed, the petition and response are referred to a single hearing committee member, and the Hearing Coordinator on staff in the Office of the Secretary will work with the hearing committee member, petitioner and Disciplinary Counsel in scheduling a date for the reinstatement hearing.

What happens after the hearing?

The hearing committee member files a report containing his/her findings and recommendations to the Board. Both parties have the right to file exceptions to the report. The case will then be considered by the Board, after which the Board will file its own report and recommendation with the Supreme Court, together with the original record. The Supreme Court will then enter an order either granting or denying the reinstatement.

What happens if ODC does not object to my reinstatement?

ODC files a certification with the Board Secretary stating that after a review of the petition and reasonably diligent inquiry, ODC has determined that there is no impediment to reinstatement and the petitioner will meet his or her burden of proof under the Rules. Upon receipt of such a certification, the Secretary assigns the case to a single member of the Board to review the record and certification and to issue a report and recommendation.

If the Board Member approves the reinstatement, the Board Member's report and the record are forwarded to the Supreme Court. The Deputy Prothonotary of the Court has the authority to sign these orders of reinstatement. It should take about two weeks from the time the case is submitted to the Supreme Court for a final order to be entered.

How long can I expect this reinstatement process to take?

That depends on two tracks the reinstatement could follow:

  1. If Disciplinary Counsel files a certification with the Board Secretary stating that after a review of the petition for reinstatement and reasonably diligent inquiry, ODC has determined that there is no impediment to reinstatement and that the petitioner-attorney will met his or her burden of proof under the Rules, there is no need to proceed to a hearing. In that case, the petition for reinstatement and certification will be assigned to a single member of the Board to review and record and issue a report and recommendation. If the Board Member recommends the reinstatement, the record is forwarded to the Prothonotary of the Supreme Court for entry of an order of reinstatement. This process averages three months.
  2. If Disciplinary Counsel opposes the reinstatement or the assigned Board Member decides that a hearing on the petition is warranted, the petition is referred to a single hearing committee member to conduct a hearing. This process could average between four to six months.

Can I motion for waiver of the CLE requirements?

Board Rule §89.279(b) provides that the Board Chair may waive the CLE requirements for good cause shown in the case of a formerly admitted attorney who has been inactive for more than three years. A Motion for Waiver setting forth the reasons for the motion and attaching any documentation supporting the request should be filed with the Office of the Secretary of the Board.

What happens if my Motion for Waiver is denied?

If a Motion for Waiver is denied by the Board Chair, the petition for reinstatement, Special Reinstatement Questionnaires and Waiver of Confidentiality forms will be returned to the attorney with the request that he/she complete the required courses and re-file the petition for reinstatement.

C. FAQ by Disbarred or Suspended Attorneys

When can I file for reinstatement?

Suspended attorneys may file for reinstatement nine (9) months prior to the expiration of the term of suspension. Disbarred attorneys may not apply for reinstatement until the expiration of at least five years from the effective date of the disbarment.

Do I have to pay the costs from my prior disciplinary proceeding before I can file for reinstatement?

Yes. Board Rule §89.272(b) provides that the Board will not entertain a petition for reinstatement filed before the formerly admitted attorney has paid in full any costs relating to any prior disciplinary or reinstatement proceeding. To determine if you owe any outstanding costs, call the Office of the Secretary at 717-231-3380.

Can I file for reinstatement if I owe money to the Pennsylvania Lawyers Fund for Client Security?

No. Board Rule §89.272(b) provides that the Board will not entertain a petition for reinstatement filed if the formerly admitted attorney has not made required restitution to the Lawyers Fund. To determine if there are any outstanding claims against you, call the Lawyers Fund at 1-800-962-4618.

What forms do I need to file for reinstatement from suspension or disbarment?

All suspended and disbarred attorneys must file a petition for reinstatement, a Reinstatement Questionnaire (in quadruplicate) and four (4) notarized original copies of the Authorization & Release form. Click on the links to download the forms.

Note: Any attachments required in the Reinstatement Questionnaire must also be filed in quadruplicate.

How long can I expect this reinstatement process to take?

The reinstatement process for a disbarred or suspended attorney normally takes between nine (9) months to one (1) year to be completed.

D. Law Related Activities

I am currently under an order of suspension, but I would like to apply for reinstatement when my period of suspension is up. A former colleague has offered me a job doing research and drafting in her law office. I could use the work, and I think this would be good preparation for when I resume the practice of law. May I accept her offer of employment?

Rule 217(j) of the Rules of Disciplinary Enforcement now sets very specific guidelines as to what law-related work a disbarred, suspended, or inactive former attorney may do. While on disbarred, suspended, or inactive status, you MAY do the following:

  • legal work of a preparatory nature, such as legal research, assembly of data and other necessary information, and drafting of transactional documents, pleadings, briefs, and other similar documents;
  • direct communication with the client or third parties regarding a matter being handled by the attorney or firm for which you work, only if the communication is limited to ministerial matters such as scheduling, billing, updates, confirmation of receipt or sending of correspondence and messages, provided that you shall clearly indicate in any such communication that you are a legal assistant and identify the supervising attorney; and
  • accompanying a member in good standing of the Bar of this Commonwealth to a deposition or other discovery matter or to a meeting regarding a matter that is not currently in litigation, for the limited purpose of providing clerical assistance to the member in good standing who appears as the representative of the client.

You shall NOT do any of these activities:

  • performing any law-related activity for a law firm, organization or lawyer if you were associated with that law firm, organization or lawyer on or after the date on which the acts which resulted in the disbarment or suspension occurred, through and including the effective date of disbarment or suspension;
  • performing any law-related services from an office that is not staffed by a supervising attorney on a full time basis;
  • performing any law-related services for any client who in the past was represented by you as an attorney;
  • representing yourself as a lawyer or person of similar status;
  • having any contact with clients either in person, by telephone, or in writing, except as provided above;
  • rendering legal consultation or advice to a client;
  • appearing on behalf of a client in any hearing or proceeding or before any judicial officer, arbitrator, mediator, court, public agency, referee, magistrate, hearing officer or any other adjudicative person or body;
  • appearing as a representative of the client at a deposition or other discovery matter;
  • negotiating or transacting any matter for or on behalf of a client with third parties or having any contact with third parties regarding such a negotiation or transaction; or
  • receiving, disbursing or otherwise handling client funds.

You and your employer must file a notice of engagement with the Disciplinary Board, identifying the supervising attorney, certifying that you have been employed and that your activities will be monitored for compliance with these requirements. You should also file a notice with the Disciplinary Board upon termination of your engagement with the lawyer or law office.