Kansas Attorneys – Proper Supervision of Law Firm Staff Members

As attorneys, we know how essential our employees are to the success of our law practices.  Legal assistants, paralegals, legal secretaries, receptionists, and other employees play a key role in ensuring a law practice is functioning at its full capacity.  Many law firm employees may have sufficient experience and knowledge to take on certain tasks, however, attorneys must always be careful about what their staff members are and are not authorized to do. 

Sometimes it is difficult to define what form of conduct is considered the practice of law, and this can leave attorneys in a troubled situation if a law firm employee’s conduct has crossed the line and violated the professional rules of conduct.  The lines become particularly blurry when non-attorney staff members are assigned to the task of maintaining general contact with clients.  A client may call and ask a legal assistant or paralegal a question that can only be answered by an attorney.  If the legal assistant or paralegal answers the client’s question, the client may take that answer as authoritative legal advice. 

For example, if a client calls asking if his or her case is likely to settle, and for what amount, and the non-attorney staff member responds with a ballpark figure, this is information the client may believe to be true, and the attorney may be held responsible for failure to properly supervise his or her employees.  Providing settlement figures or the likelihood of success of a particular case are tasks left only to licensed attorney. 

It isn’t always easy for attorneys to speak with their clients on a frequent basis when they are busy working on other matters.  As such, law firm employees can provide clients with general updates on their cases so that they do not feel neglected, but they must do so in a way that does not constitute the unauthorized practice of law.

Preventing the Unauthorized Practice of Law

When non-attorney employees give legal advice to clients, they are essentially practicing law without authority.  To ensure that your employees fully understand what their bounds are, and that you are ultimately responsible for their conduct, you need to make it very clear from the time of employment that only attorneys can discuss substantive legal matters with clients.  If clients have questions that non-attorney employees cannot and should not be answering, the clients should be told that an attorney will follow-up and answer the client’s legal questions.

Further, your clients need to be aware of what your law firm employees’ bounds are.  Your clients will then have a better understanding of what role you have and what role your employees have in the attorney-client relationship.  Attorneys should place an emphasis on working closely with their employees to develop a strong relationship where each and every team member has no question as to what they are and are not authorized to do on behalf of the law firm.         

Contact Danielle Sanger of the Sanger Law Office Today to Schedule a Free Consultation

Facing disciplinary action and the possible loss of your Kansas law license is a stressful and frightening experience.  You deserve a compassionate and hardworking professional license defense attorney to advocate on your behalf.  At the Sanger Law Office, Kansas Professional Licensing Attorney Danielle Sanger devotes her law practice to defending the rights and interests of Kansas attorneys and other professionals who may be at risk for losing their professional licenses.  As a former Assistant Attorney General of Kansas, Danielle Sanger has the skill and experience necessary to help you overcome the challenges you face.  To schedule a free consultation with Danielle Sanger, call the Sanger Law Office today at (785) 979-4353.