Ryan, L.L.C. Gets Hand Slapped for Engaging in the Unauthorized Practice of Law Before the Ohio Board of Tax Appeals

In 2009, Ryan, LLC filed a Notice of Appeal with the Ohio Board of Tax Appeals (BTA) on behalf of its client, Owens Corning. The Ohio Supreme Court, adopting the proposed consent decree following an investigation by the Ohio State Bar Association, found that Ryan and its employee engaged in the unauthorized practice of law by: (1) preparing and filing a notice of appeal before the BTA; and (2) appearing before the BTA on behalf of its client. Ohio St. Bar Assn. v. Ryan, L.L.C., 2013-Ohio-5500 (Dec. 24, 2013). It seems Ryan accepted blame for its actions, as the appeal before the BTA was quickly withdrawn, and Ryan fully cooperated in the investigation, in exchange for having no civil penalties imposed.

This ruling is consistent with previous Ohio authority holding that representing another before a quasi-judicial agency, such as the BTA or Board of Revisions, is the practice of law, as explained in a previous post. Nonattorneys, and even attorneys employed by nonlawfirms, must be cautious as a notice of appeal or compliant on behalf of their client is ineffective and may be dismissed on jurisdictional grounds, thereby prejudicing the client. See Sharon Village Ltd. v. Licking Cty. Bd. of Revision, 78 Ohio St.3d 479 (1997). It is also likely that representing a client in an administrative appeal before the Tax Commissioner constitutes the practice of law because it creates a record and could prejudice the client’s future rights on appeal.