Informal Opinion Number: 2020-02

Adoption Date: 2020

Rules: 6.03; 6.05; 6.06; 15
Election to Become Inactive
Unauthorized Practice by Stricken or Inactive Lawyer
Return to Inactive Status
Continuing Legal Education
Subject: Enrollment; Inactive Status; Retirement (see also Inactive Status or Of Counsel)
Summary: retiring lawyer taking inactive status

Is a retired lawyer exempt from paying the annual enrollment fee? Is a retired lawyer able to work as a paralegal? Is a retired lawyer exempt from reporting Continuing Legal Education hours?

There is no “retired” enrollment status in Missouri. A Missouri lawyer who ceases to practice law in Missouri may elect to become inactive pursuant to Rule 6.03 and pay an annual inactive fee. Inactive lawyers are prohibited from engaging in the practice of law or the doing of a law business in Missouri. Rule 6.05. Whether work as a paralegal by a lawyer whose license is inactive constitutes the unauthorized practice of law is a question of law and fact outside the scope of the Rules of Professional Conduct. In Missouri the judiciary is the sole arbiter of what constitutes the practice of law. Generally, a lawyer who is not permitted to practice law because the lawyer’s license is inactive is permitted to do law-related work that a nonlawyer, such as a paralegal, is permitted to perform. However, inactive lawyers working as paralegals must exercise caution. It can be difficult for an experienced lawyer to refrain from providing legal services, even when the lawyer’s title is that of legal assistant or paralegal. An inactive lawyer may apply for return to active status under Rule 6.06. A Missouri lawyer in good standing is exempt under Rule 6.01(d) from paying annual enrollment fees or inactive fees if the lawyer has been licensed to practice in Missouri for fifty years or more or has reached the age of seventy-five years. Rule 15, Continuing Legal Education, governs whether a lawyer is required to complete or report Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credit hours. Questions about what constitutes the active practice of law in Missouri for purposes of Rule 15 should be directed to The Missouri Bar.

Informal Opinions are ethics advisory opinions issued by the Office of Legal Ethics Counsel to members of the Bar about Rule 4 (Rules of Professional Conduct), Rule 5 (Complaints and Proceedings Thereon), and Rule 6 (Fees to Practice Law) pursuant to Missouri Supreme Court Rule 5.30(c). Written summaries of select Informal Opinions are published for informational purposes as determined by the Advisory Committee of the Supreme Court of Missouri pursuant to Rule 5.30(c). Informal opinion summaries are advisory in nature and are not binding. These opinions are published as an educational service and do not constitute legal advice.

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