An important case on the issue of whether a non-Maryland attorney has improperly engaged in the practice of law within the state is AGC v. Jackson, 477 Md. 174, 269 A.3d 252 (2022). Jackson involved a respondent-attorney who was not licensed in Maryland but who maintained a law firm in the state that was composed, in part, of Maryland attorneys. The respondent-attorney had met with Bar Counsel about the issue of being a non-Maryland attorney with a Maryland law firm, had received some advice on how to ensure compliance with all applicable ethical considerations, and followed the advice. Id. at 181, 269 A.3d at 256. The Office of Bar Counsel had a change in leadership some years later and initiated an investigation of the respondent-attorney that eventually led to charges and a trial (the Court of Appeals intimated that the change in leadership at the Office of Bar Counsel could have been why the charges resulted; see id. at 190, 269 A.3d at 161 n. 5). The trial judge found that the respondent-attorney violated Maryland Rule 5.5 (now Maryland Rule 19-305.5) which concerns the unauthorized practice of law.
On appeal, Bar Counsel sought an indefinite suspension, but the Court of Appeals found that no sanction should be issued for a number of reasons, including the presence of nine mitigating factors and the conduct of the respondent-attorney.
More specifically, while the respondent-attorney did sign two summons reissuance lines that were filed in a Maryland case, the Court of Appeals found this was a technical violation. Id. at 197-98, 269 A.3d at 265-66. Further, the Court of Appeals rejected the argument that preparing settlement sheets for Maryland cases was the practice of law since it did not involve, "applying legal knowledge or skill, providing legal advice, or applying legal principles to problems of any complexity," id. at 202, 269 A.3d at 269, and similarly found attending Maryland settlement conferences and mediations with other Maryland attorneys from her office was not the practice of law since the respondent-attorney did not hold herself out as counsel in the case. Id. at 203, 269 A.3d at 269.
Non-Maryland attorneys with offices within the state would be wise to read Jackson to ensure that they are not engaging in any conduct that could be construed as a violation of Maryland Rule 19-305.5.
Goodell DeVries defends various professionals in Maryland, the District of Columbia, and Virginia, including lawyers and law firms. Many of these cases are ethics matters involving Bar Counsel. If you have questions about the above or are a Maryland lawyer facing discipline, please contact us at EthicsHelp@gdldlaw.com.