By Lucy McAllister, Esq.
Protecting your profession and your professional license couldn’t be more important. Licensing complaints, accusations, reporting to state criminal authorities, disciplinary investigations and proceedings by licensing boards which effect the viability or reinstatement of your license are serious matters – where there is a lot at stake. Whether you are a physician, a teacher, an engineer, or another type of licensed professional, you depend upon your professional license every day. Your license enables you to do the work that you love, the work that provides economic support for you and your family.
Even if you know that the accusation or claim that gave rise to the investigation or disciplinary proceedings is without merit, the licensing board does not know that. Their job is to ensure that the professionals who hold licenses are doing their jobs properly and treat their clients with respect.
If you are a California professional facing disciplinary action as the result of a license complaint to your California licensing board or agency, do not despair. There are things that you can do to minimize the impact of the board’s investigation and any associated disciplinary proceedings, protect the viability of your professional license and defend your career.
Here are 6 ways to protect and defend your California professional license from suspension and/or loss:
1. Take action immediately. The initial, informal stages of a disciplinary proceeding may seem like they are not all that complicated or serious. However, if you seek the assistance of a professional licensing attorney as soon as you are aware that there is a problem, they may be able to help you to effectively resolve the situation in the early stage of board disciplinary action. It is important that you do not speak to an investigator or respond to a letter from the licensing board on your own, because the things that you say could be used against you later on in the proceedings. And the further you go into the disciplinary process, the more likely it is that information about the proceedings against you will be made public, even if your case is eventually dismissed.
2. Retain expert counsel. Getting the assistance of a professional attorney during the informal stages of a disciplinary investigation or proceeding often results in the matter being settled in far less time and much more inexpensively than it would be if you try to take care of this matter on your own and end up becoming involved in more formal disciplinary proceedings. While you may think that representing yourself in the informal stages of your disciplinary proceeding will cost you less money than it would cost to retain an attorney, it could end up costing you more. Disciplinary actions (or the threat thereof) can cause a great deal of stress for a professional and a swift resolution of the situation can make for far fewer sleepless nights and worry-filled days.
3. Choose the right partner. It’s critical to identify an attorney who is well connected and knows the local courts, judges, procedural rules and legal processes. Ideally, someone who has years of experience managing through the disciplinary process for the wide variety of professional licensing clients will pay off in your case. Someone who has a great deal of knowledge about how each board handles license complaints and investigations, the specific disciplinary processes of different boards and who has developed a rapport with board staff and attorneys on these professional licensing boards. And in the event that the licensing complaint that resulted in disciplinary action against you by the licensing board also results in criminal charges being filed against you, it is always advisable to find a licensing law attorney who has a depth of criminal and trial experience as a criminal lawyer.
4. Disclose your mistakes. The earlier stages of the disciplinary process often present opportunities for professionals to acknowledge mistakes that they have made with little impact on their ability to continue working in their chosen profession. By seeking the assistance of an experienced licensing attorney, you can be sure that you will not miss any opportunities to work through your disciplinary issue with as few restrictions on your license as possible, and perhaps even with no restrictions at all.
5. Build a case for license reinstatement. You may think that if your license has already been suspended or revoked, or if you have been placed on probation, there is nothing more that you can do. Fortunately, even after these things have happened, you may still be able to reduce the impact of probation, revocation, or suspension on your professional license. A professional licensing attorney can help you to petition the board for reinstatement of your license or a reduction in your probationary period.
6. Protect any multi-state licenses. If you are licensed in more than one state, you need the knowledge and experience of a professional licensing attorney to help you prevent disciplinary action in one state from affecting your professional credentials in other states. An experienced licensing lawyer can help you to assess and manage the risks associated with disciplinary proceedings so that they have the least possible impact on your personal and professional life.
If you are at risk of losing your California professional license or are concerned about verifying or reinstating your California license, please contact our law offices immediately.