After disbarment, McFlynn to keep busy with public service
So what does an attorney who has been practicing law for 33 years do after being disbarred?
Plenty, it appears, if that person is Tim McFlynn.
McFlynn, the local attorney whose disbarment by the Colorado Supreme Court was made public yesterday, was remarkably upbeat in an interview Tuesday, in spite of the circumstances.
“It’s been a real honor to be able to do all of the things I’ve been able to do as a litigator, but I don’t need to continue doing more of the same,” he said. “I’m very excited about playing a different role in the justice system, with Public Counsel of the Rockies and as a mediator.”
But that’s all in the future. Right now McFlynn is in the process of winding down a 33-year career as a litigator.
Beginning Jan. 2, by order of the state Supreme Court, he will no longer be licensed to practice law in Colorado. McFlynn is being disbarred for borrowing money in 1999 from an account at his law firm without permission from his partners or the clients to whom the money belonged. He was disbarred even though he had repaid the money and turned himself in to authorities.
But McFlynn is hopeful, even confident, that his record as an attorney and an active member of the community will carry him through the notoriety that comes with disbarment.
Only 19 lawyers were disbarred in Colorado in 1999, according to Nancy Cohen, the attorney who prosecuted the case against McFlynn for the Supreme Court’s Office of Attorney Regulation. The misconduct that brought McFlynn down is called “knowing conversion” in the legal community, and Cohen said it is one of the most common reasons attorneys are disbarred. Other misdeeds that cause attorneys to lose their licenses include abandonment of clients and felony convictions.
Cohen said the Supreme Court rarely makes exceptions to its policy of disbarring attorneys in such cases.
“I think it’s sad, mainly because he’s such a wonderful person and such a great attorney,” said architect Harry Teague, a friend and client of McFlynn’s.
McFlynn said once he realized that his career as a litigator was going to end, two things happened.
First, he agreed to sign a conditional admission of misconduct and began notifying clients and colleagues that his days as a practicing lawyer were numbered. He stopped taking new clients, wound up the cases he could and referred others to colleagues he trusted.
“The conditional admission gave me time, so I’m not just hit with a fax from the Supreme Court that requires me to tell all these people I represent – who are counting on me to keep their balls in the air – that I’m not their guy anymore,” he said.
And then he got to thinking about his future.
He began taking on more mediation cases, which don’t require a license to practice law. A mediator’s job basically entails working with both parties in a dispute, suggesting resolutions and shuttling proposals for settlement back and forth until a satisfactory arrangement is reached.
McFlynn believes his prospects for success in the field are good, particularly since the state Legislature passed a law this year that requires all property or payment disputes worth less than $50,000 to go through mediation before going to court.
“I think he does have a lot of skills and can help people in those situations,” said Tim Whitsitt, McFlynn’s partner from 1989 through 1999. Asked if he would be comfortable referring clients to McFlynn for mediation, Whitsitt said, “Yeah, I think I would.”
The other career path McFlynn is anticipating is with Public Counsel of the Rockies. Public Counsel is a nonprofit, public interest, legal organization that McFlynn formed in 1999. Its purpose is providing legal assistance to causes of community-wide interest.
“The idea behind Public Counsel is a powerful one,” he said. “And directing it, overseeing its spread to other communities around the Rockies, is something I hope to be doing for the rest of my life, the rest of my career.”
Public Counsel has made its mark on three big issues here in its short existence. It helped to keep the Immigration and Naturalization Service from opening an enforcement office in Carbondale. It brought in legal representation to help with the successful effort to stave off approval of a massive residential and commercial development about three miles south of Glenwood Springs. And Public Counsel is pursuing legal remedies against local organizations that it believes violated state election laws in the last two elections.
Public Counsel’s role has been to match the top legal talent in the state to help with the causes it takes up. The attorneys who represented locals in the INS and Glenwood Springs cases worked at half price after being coaxed by Public Counsel.
Teague and Sheriff Bob Braudis, both of whom sit on Public Counsel’s board of directors, expect McFlynn to stay on as Public Counsel’s director. “The fact that he can’t practice law anymore doesn’t mean he can’t affect things around here,” Braudis said.
The sheriff said much of his respect for McFlynn lies in the fact that there are very few attorneys like him, who are willing to donate their time and services to people who can’t afford a lawyer. “I’d support him in whatever endeavor he wants to get into,” Braudis said.
“He certainly has a lot of good friends in this valley,” Whitsitt said, “but you never know how something like this will affect you.”
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