Beyond the Bio

Richard Greenberg Talks About Helping Other Professionals and Life Outside the Office

Richard Greenberg Talks About Helping Other Professionals and Life Outside the Office

Richard Greenberg routinely helps applicants who need assistance in navigating the process of being admitted to The Florida Bar and has represented many lawyers who have faced investigation after complaints have been made to the Bar. Practicing in the Tallahassee office of RumbergerKirk, Richard also has an extensive background in criminal defense. Here, he answers a few questions about his practice and reveals a little bit about life outside the office.

Richard Greenberg

Richard Greenberg

Richard, your practice is primarily focused on licensure issues that professionals, such as attorneys, face. Can you tell us what drew you to this field of law? 

I began my career in the public defenders office in Tampa, where I discoverd my passion for criminal defense. After a few years, I was looking to broaden my practice areas and was fortunate to find a position working with The Florida Bar. While there, I began to understand the difficulties lawyers face when they attempt to represent themselves when a complaint has been filed against them. I also saw bright young law students make mistakes that could put an abrupt end to their chances of a legal career. Then, when I entered private practice, I expanded that knowledge to include issues professionals such as architects and doctors have with their licensure bodies.

Tell us about some of the roadblocks law school graduates might face when applying for admission to The Florida Bar.

When a student graduates from an ABA-accredited law school and wants to practice law in Florida, he or she must file an application with the Florida Board of Bar Examiners. Separate and apart from taking and passing the Bar exam, which is in itself a challenge, students must undergo a rigorous background check and pass a character and fitness investigation. The Board of Bar Examiners evaluates applicants’ honesty and trustworthiness, and will take a close look at all prior conduct.

One problem which frequently arises is when an applicant has been exonerated in connection to an allegation while in school, or may have just completely forgotten a minor incident, and the Board uncovers it. To the Board of Bar examiners it may look like an effort to hide misconduct. When this happens, applicants may need representation. I recall one case where the applicant had been accused of cheating on an exam and, following an investigation, was cleared. Because she had been cleared, the applicant did not think to include the information on her Bar application. We were successful in stating her case before the Board of Bar Examiners and she was eventually admitted to practice law.

In another case, the applicant had disclosed a DUI and a misdemeanor charge for possession of marijuana. The Board generally has grave reservations when someone shows a proclivity toward abusing drugs of any kind. While this fellow had done extremely well in law school, we had to work with the Board to establish parameters for ensuring he would not get into trouble again. An attorney was assigned to mentor the young man and he was required to attend substance abuse classes.

I tell law students that they must carefully search their memories of any and all incidents throughout their high school and college years, and include each one with a full explanation on the application. It is always best to err on the side of full disclosure when applying to The Florida Bar.

Florida is recognized as a prime destination for people wanting to relocate. What is the process when a lawyer from out-of-state moves to Florida and wants to continue to practice law?

The process for an out-of-state lawyer who wants to gain admission to The Florida Bar is essentially the same as for a new applicant. One difference, however, is that a currently practicing attorney will have to disclose any grievances which may have been filed against them. They will also have to disclose additional information relating to their practice. Also, the administrative fees charged by the Board of Bar Examiners are higher for practicing attorneys.

When a complaint is made against a lawyer, The Florida Bar launches an investigation. Can you tell us about the most common complaints and what a lawyer can do to avoid them?

Failure to communicate is by far the most common complaint I see. Lawyers must keep their clients informed at all times about what is happening with their cases. We all get busy, and it’s easy to put off calling a client or sending an e-mail or letter, but we must do it.

Another common complaint is neglect of a matter. Sometimes a lawyer will take a case when they’re really too busy to handle it properly or they get into the case and realize they never should have taken the case in the first place. When that happens it’s not unusual to find that the attorney fails to work on it or even misses deadlines. Lawyers have to remember that it’s just as important to know which cases not to take as it is to accept new clients.

You also represent clients facing criminal charges. What kind of cases do you generally accept?

I represent clients in a wide range of cases, from relatively minor cases, such as misdemeanor drug offenses and DUI, all the way up to defending people who have been charged with felonies punishable by up to life in prison. My criminal practice encompasses cases in state and federal court and in the states of Florida and Georgia. In addition, I handle appeals in both state and federal courts. Finally, another unique area of my practice is representing people seeking a Pardon or other forms of clemency from the Governor and Cabinet in Florida.

When you’re not practicing law, how do you spend your time?

As a native of Tallahassee I try to give back to the community as much as possible. I’m a Rotarian and a member of the Tiger Bay Club. One of my favorite leisure activities is playing golf. About 10 years ago I took the trip of a lifetime when I took my father and my son to Scotland to play St. Andrews and other historic courses. I also enjoy outdoor activities such as hiking and biking. Every summer for over 15 years I’ve gone on a camping trip with a group of friends in the mountains of North Carolina.