The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ordered the one-year suspension of a Pennsylvania lawyer who practiced law in Texas and Georgia without a license.
Sheila K. Younger-Halliman’s discipline on consent order was issued by the court Feb. 21. Halliman admitted to holding herself out as a licensed attorney while working as an independent contractor for a Texas-based mediation firm called Mediation World.
“Precedent suggests that respondent’s misconduct here—creating the false impression, through Mediation Worlds’ website and by identifying herself on retainer agreements as ‘Sheila Younger-Halliman, Esq.,’ that she was a licensed attorney in Texas, engaging in various law-related activities in five matters, and failing to respond to [a client's] request for receipts and information—warrants suspension for one year,” the state Disciplinary Board said in its petition for discipline.
According to the board’s petition, Younger-Halliman performed legal work on four matters in Texas and one in Georgia, despite not being licensed to practice law in either state. In doing so, the board said, she violated both the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct and the Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct.
However, according to the board’s papers there were mitigating factors that prevented more severe discipline, such as Younger-Halliman’s admission of misconduct and her expression of remorse for her unauthorized practice of law.
Additionally, the board said “there are no aggravating factors in this matter. Moreover, respondent’s law-related activities were minimal in scope and number.” And Younger-Halliman has not been practicing law since March 2017.
She claimed, according to the board, that “she believed that she was not exceeding the bounds of ‘mediation’ and that Mediation World had employed a Texas-barred attorney to do the work that went beyond ‘mediation’— i.e., to draft ‘agreements and handle litigation matters.’”
The board continued, “There is evidence that Mediation World did in fact employ for some period of time a Texas-barred attorney, although, respondent, and not the Texas-barred attorney, engaged in various law-related activities in the five matters discussed. … Respondent’s actual work on these cases—providing advice to clients, drafting pre-suit documents, and attempting to negotiate a settlement—did not involve any court appearances.”
Since the suspension is less than a year and a day, Younger-Halliman will not need to petition for reinstatement to the Pennsylvania bar.
Younger-Halliman is represented by West Chester-based ethics lawyer Samuel Stretton.
“It’s a sad situation, she made a mistake,” Stretton said. “She moved to Texas because her husband worked there and she got hooked up with this mediation association. You’re allowed to do mediation if you’re not a lawyer, but I think she got confused as to where the line was and as a result we had this matter.”