When your work requires a professional license, then that license becomes one of the most important tools for your career growth. Therefore, if you are facing a license board investigation, your career is on the line should the licensing board make a negative decision against you. Consequently, you have to defend your license at all costs during the license board investigation. This should include hiring a professional license defense attorney who has defended similar professionals. This blog will help you understand how an attorney can help you during the investigation, but let’s discuss why you can be under investigation first.

Reasons for a Licensing Board Investigation

If you are a licensed professional in California, there’s a state body responsible for ensuring that you practice within the stipulated code of conduct. When your actions violate any of these terms and conditions, the State Licensing Board could launch an investigation to determine the next action.

In most cases, a complaint or notification of a criminal charge or conviction is enough to trigger a license board investigation. Other reasons the licensing board may launch an investigation include:

  • Dishonorable conduct

  • Lacking professional competence

  • Making false reports to the board

  • Alcohol and drug abuse that interferes with your ability to offer an acceptable standard of care

  • Certain felony convictions

  • Misrepresenting your qualifications, education, or training

  • Negligence

  • Ethics violations

Anyone can file complaints, and licensing boards allow anonymous complaints against physicians and other licensed professionals. Filing complaints is the first step in the licensing board's investigative process.

If the complaint has merit, the board proceeds to launch an investigation. You will be notified formally in writing. The board then schedules a meeting for a hearing, which could happen in a few weeks to months, depending on the available workload.

You will also attend a formal administrative hearing before the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH), where the matter is evaluated, and a proposal for decision is presented to the full board. The board may accept or reject the proposal for decision, resulting in one of the following outcomes:

  • Probation

  • A public reprimand

  • Revocation of your license

  • Suspension of your license

  • Citation or fines

5 Reasons Why You Should Hire an Attorney

Working with an attorney is wise when facing a licensing board investigation and subsequent proceedings. If you are still on the fence about hiring an attorney, here are five reasons you should.

  1. The Licensing Board is Not After Your Interests

The licensing board in any profession is not after protecting your interests. Their job is to ensure that you operate in a manner that does not put the public at risk of harm. Most licensing boards are also under pressure to demonstrate their performance in disciplining professionals.

Therefore, the licensing board will not hesitate to strip you of your professional license should they find you violating the professional code of conduct.

Hiring an attorney when you receive a complaint is merely an act of protecting yourself – similar to what you would do if you face criminal charges.

Failing to work with an attorney is a risky move that could see you lose your license and potentially open you up to additional civil lawsuits.

  1. Your Attorney Will Help You Avoid the Common Mistakes People Make During these Investigations

The moment the state licensing board decides to investigate a complaint, your actions become scrutinized in light of the ongoing investigation. What you do can make or break your case. When working with a professional license defense attorney, they will advise you on the common mistakes that you should avoid while the investigations are underway. Some of these mistakes include:

  • Contacting the person who filed the complaint. This mistake could be used against you as a demonstration that you tried to intimidate or harass the complainant.

  • Giving access to medical and patient records to anyone involved in the investigations without your attorney’s knowledge. Submitting sensitive records to the licensing board investigation body could open you up to additional legal issues than you started with. An attorney will help you avoid this mistake by advising you on what records are protected and what you can do to limit legal liability.

  • Discussing the case with colleagues, friends, or family.

  • Communicating with the board investigator without legal representation

  • Assuming that the licensing board is there to protect your rights and prove your innocence

  • Failing to notify your malpractice insurer about the complaint

  • Responding angrily to the complaint or attempting to place blame on others

  • Admitting fault too soon. In irrefutable cases, it makes sense to admit that a mistake happened and show ways you tried to mitigate the damage. However, in some cases, you might needlessly admit fault for something that could be easily explained. When you admit fault needlessly, you are likely to face harsher penalties than you could have if you did not.

  • Failing to respond to every charge on the complaint makes it look like an admission to the board.

Working with an attorney will help you avoid some of these mistakes that could worsen your case.

  1. To Help You Prepare a Defense Against the Accusations

The most important reason to hire a professional license defense attorney is to help you defend yourself and your professional license. A professional license defense attorney is your advocate who will help you respond appropriately to the accusation and defend yourself during any proceedings with the board.

As soon as the licensing board receives a complaint and decides that complaint has merit, they begin stacking evidence against you.

Working with an attorney begins gathering the right evidence to fight the charges that the board files against you.

Here is what an attorney will do for you:

  • Guide you through the licensing board investigation process

  • Help you develop a well-planned response to the allegations against you

  • Prepare a legal defense strategy based on the circumstances of that case ad your goals

  • Negotiate the terms of an informal settlement, where applicable

  • Representing you during the formal hearing proceedings

  • Advising you on what to expect, including the potential outcomes of a license investigation board

  1. To Help You Communicate with the Board

It’s understandable if the first thing you want to do after receiving a notice of complaint is to contact the licensing board. This is a significant mistake, as the board is not working to protect your interests.

Hiring an attorney with experience handling license board investigations ensures that you have someone your licensing board can refer to when they need your input about the license.

Your attorney will help you navigate any communications from the licensing board. Where the board needs information from you, your attorney should be present to ensure that you do not incriminate yourself and that your rights are not violated during any questioning.

In addition, your attorney will guide you when responding to the initial complaint. Once you receive a notice of complaint, you must file the response within the stipulated deadline. Your attorney will help you craft a strong response letter, which in some cases, could be all that you need to have the investigation closed.

Your attorney will also help you determine what records can be submitted to the board without creating additional legal issues. For instance, if you are a healthcare professional, submitting patient records to the board could violate the HIPAA laws landing you in additional legal trouble. Your attorney will help you mitigate these issues, thus preventing further issues in the future.

  1. You Have Someone to Discuss Your Case With

It’s instinctual to turn to those around us for comfort and support when facing challenging issues such as a licensing board investigation. However, when facing a licensing board investigation, it's best not to seek understanding and support from your family or colleagues.

The licensing board could call upon these individuals and witnesses, which could be damaging to your case. Your communications with friends and colleagues are not protected under the law. Therefore, they can be placed under oath as witnesses against you.

If you discuss your case with your attorney, the attorney-client privilege protects you from having the details you disclose to the attorney revealed during the license board investigation process

Considerations When Hiring a Professional License Defense Attorney

The basis of working with an attorney is to have a professional third party who understands license board investigations and procedures to help you defend your license. Therefore, finding an attorney with experience in license defense is in your best interests. Here are some considerations to make when hiring a professional license defense attorney:

  1. Ask for Referrals from Friends or Colleagues

Friends and colleagues can be a source of referrals when looking for an attorney to represent you. If you know a colleague or friend who has had to defend their license in the past, you can ask them to refer you to the attorney who helped with their case.

  1. Make Sure the Attorney Specializes in License Defense

Each lawyer deals with a different part of the law. You want to ensure that you work with a lawyer experienced in defending professional licenses. The more specialized they are, the more helpful they will be to you.

  1. Look at the Attorney’s Location

Building a relationship with your attorney is as important as defending your license. Choose an attorney whose office is in your location. They should also be operating within California since laws differ across states.

A lawyer within your location is more available and can deal with your case better and appear for different hearings more conveniently than if they were out of your location.

  1. What Experience Does the Attorney Have?

In addition to an attorney specializing in license defense, you should choose an attorney with experience working with professionals facing a licensing board investigation. Ask them about similar cases that they handled and their results on these cases.

Remember, your success in defending your license depends on how well you choose the attorney to represent you.

  1. Cost of the Legal Service

The cost of defense services varies based on the law firm or the attorney. Different lawyers also have different billing methods that you should consider when looking for a lawyer. You should also ask about reduced costs if paralegals handle your case.

  1. Communication

Hiring a lawyer does not mean you should not follow up or care about what is happening. Ideally, your lawyer should communicate with you regularly about the progress of your case, new evidence or challenges that are arising, and provide potential solutions to these challenges. They should also communicate important dates you should honor as part of the license board proceedings.

Your attorney should also provide contact information so you can reach them when you need to address an issue related to your case. They should make it clear what communication methods and the duration within which you may expect communication from them.

  1. Compatibility

Another key factor when looking for an attorney is your compatibility with that attorney. Compatibility implies an ability to work together without problems or conflict. You can trust the attorney enough to provide details about your case.

When communicating with the attorney over your consultation, there will be key tell-tale signs that could indicate whether you will have a good working relationship. These include:

  • Is the attorney respectful? For example, did they show up on time for the appointment?

  • Is the attorney honest with you, or are they selling a delusion?

  • Have they had previous reports of unethical practice?

  • Are they empathetic to your situation?

In addition to these considerations, you may want to ask your attorney several questions during the consultation to evaluate further whether they are the ideal attorney for your case. These questions include:

  • Who will handle my case if I hire your law firm? In some law firms, the person you speak to during the initial consultation will not be the person who works on your case. You should ask this question to insist on meeting the person who will handle your case. In some cases, law firms work with paralegals. You should ask whether this will be the case and decide whether to move forward with the attorney in question.

  • Have you handled cases similar to mine? An attorney with experience with similar cases can draw upon the previous experience to develop a better strategy to defend your license.

  • Are your goals realistic? Whenever you approach an attorney to defend your license, you should have goals on what you expect the defense to achieve. The success of the defense partly depends on the facts of the case. For example, suppose there's clear and irrefutable evidence that you violated a professional code of conduct or the law. In that case, the defense could focus on mitigating the effects on your career rather than getting the whole case thrown out. Your attorney can guide you based on the facts, what to expect, and the reasonable possibilities that could arise. When asking about how realistic your goals are, you should watch out for attorneys who sound too good to be true. If they guarantee a win, no matter what, it's time to find another lawyer.

  • What should be my biggest concern? Once your attorney reviews your case, they might be able to point out what issues may present the most significant challenges. Being aware of these issues can help you mitigate them sooner to reduce the chances of worsening your case.

  • How might you approach my case? A good lawyer should know how they might deal with your case. This means identifying what strategies might work after assessing your case. They should be able to advise you on the various options you have that could lead to your desired objective. You should also ask about their style in handling cases – do they take an aggressive approach, or do they seek an amicable resolution?

  • Who is your typical client? In addition to an area of specialization, most attorneys have a preferred client type. For instance, an attorney may specialize solely in clients who have their practice, while another one focuses on professionals employed within an organization. The approach for them may be varied. Therefore, you should not overlook this question before hiring an attorney.

Do not be in a rush to find an attorney and settle on the first one you find unless they meet your criteria of the best attorney. If you feel you have a short time to hire one, start by researching online for attorneys within your location.

Read online reviews (both positive and negative) and narrow down your choice to a few law firms. Contact them and schedule a consultation. Remember to carry your list of questions and concerns that you may want to be addressed as you go into the consultation.

Find a Professional License Defense Attorney Near Me

When your career depends on your license, any notification of an ongoing investigation should send you into protective mode. License board investigations often stretch for weeks or months, which can be draining. Working with an experienced professional license defense attorney can save you a lot in helping you avoid common mistakes and presenting a strong defense to fight for your license. The Legal Guardian works with professional licensees in Long Beach, helping you respond to any allegations that could affect your license. For a consultation, call us at 866-448-6811.