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Another Attorney Who Wasn’t

Posted by Frank Steinberg | Dec 11, 2006 | 0 Comments

A few weeks ago we posted on the danger to professional service firms from failing to confirm the licensure of applicants for professional positions before hiring them.  Now comes a similar tale that reaches into the federal government and the office of the Air Force Judge Advocate general.  Stars & Stripes reports on the long-running lie lived by Col. Michael D. Murphy, "one of the Air Force's top legal eagles" and commander of the Air Force Legal Operations Agency in Washington.  He was even Commandant of the Air Force JAG School in 2005.  More background  here and here.

Col. Murphy came to the Air Force from a civilian law practice 23 years ago.  The Air Force failed to check his credentials.  If they had, they would have discovered that Col. — then Mr. — Murphy had been suspended for seven years from the practice of law and was later disbarred. 

In the past the Air Force has operated on a honor system regarding licensure when hiring attorneys.  Now all Air Force lawyers have until December 31 to provide "visual proof" of their good standing to practice law. 

The Air Force learned a lesson the hard way, but it also — pardon the expression — dodged a bullet because Col. Murphy did not represent criminal defendants.  If he had, the conviction of anyone he represented might be subject to challenge.

In New Jersey many professions require special licensure.  How many employers actually check the professional credentials of job applicants before hiring them?  Our two recent examples involve lawyers, but no profession would be immune.  How many medical practices would want to defend against a malpractice claim based upon the actions of an unlicensed physician?  How many accounting firms based upon the conduct of someone not a CPA?

It may be time to start requiring proof if you don't already.

About the Author

Frank Steinberg

Frank is the founder and principal of Steinberg Law, LLC. A Jersey boy born and bred, he focuses on employment litigation and counseling, business litigation,  and aviation law. Following law school and a clerkship in the federal district court Frank spent his early career with large litigation ...

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