June 08, 2016 Articles

Tips for Representing Clients Before a State Licensing Board or Regulatory Agency

Representing professionals in disciplinary matters is an administrative law practice.

By Phillip A. Cole

The professional disciplines—whether law, medicine, accounting, engineering, cosmetology, or something else—are regulated by the state offices that license them. Typically, these licensing boards or agencies are staffed almost exclusively by members of the regulated profession. Claims of professional misconduct reviewed by regulatory boards may be, but likely are not, a reiteration of a typical malpractice civil suit. Professional negligence (a lawyer missing a statute of limitations deadline or a surgeon operating on the wrong knee) typically does not represent a departure from the ethical codes of conduct that govern professions. The rules of conduct for lawyers or doctors do not require perfection in performance; they focus on questions of loyalty, fidelity, and diligence in the delivery of the service. And a finding of professional misconduct does not require a showing of injury or damages. For example, the complainant could be a bystander. Indeed, in my practice, I have seen several instances of complaints by persons who were opposing parties to the lawyer’s client. Likewise, in the case of physicians, it is not uncommon for nurses to make a complaint.

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