Updated: Dec. 11, 2017

When a licensed legal professional does not have the mental or physical capacity to practice law, he or she may be transferred to Disability Inactive status. Disability Inactive status is described in the WSBA Bylaws in Article III. B.2. and in the Washington Supreme Court Rules for Enforcement of Lawyer Conduct (ELC), Rules for Enforcement of LLLT Conduct (ELLLTC) and Rules for Enforcement of LPO Conduct (ELPOC). While on disability inactive status, you must not practice law, are not required to pay any license fees, and are not required to meet MCLE requirements.

Determination of Incapacity to Practice Law

The requirements for a determination of incapacity to practice law are set forth in ELC Title 8, ELLLTC, and ELPOC. You can be determined to be incapable of practicing law as follows:

  1. You enter into a stipulation to transfer to disability inactive status according to the terms of ELC/ELLLTC/ELPOC 8.5. 
  2. You are found to be incapacitated following a hearing in a disability proceeding under ELC/ELLLTC/ELPOC 8.3. 
  3. As required under ELC/ELLLTC/ELPOC 8.1., a court order was entered demonstrating that you:
  • were found to be incapable of assisting in your own defense in a criminal action;
  • were acquitted of crime based on insanity;
  • had a guardian appointed for your person or estate on a finding of incompetency; or
  • were found to be mentally incapable of conducting the practice of law in any other jurisdiction.

If you know of an order involving a licensed legal professional like those described in item 3 above, please provide that information to WSBA Status Changes at statuschanges@wsba.org.

In most cases the transfer to disability inactive status is automatic after entry of an appropriate order under items 2 or 3 above. The only voluntary transfer to disability inactive status is through a stipulation with the WSBA under item 1.

Concern About Another Licensed Legal Professional

If you have concerns about the capacity of another licensed legal professional's to practice law, there are several options available as resources.

  1. You may contact or refer the individual to the WSBA Lawyers/LLLTs/LPOs Assistance Program (LAP).
  2. You may refer the licensed legal professional to Status Changes to determine what other status options are available.
  3. You may file a grievance with the Office of Disciplinary Counsel, which may investigate the individual’s capacity to practice.

Your Own Voluntary Transfer to Disability Inactive Status

If you are interested in voluntarily seeking disability inactive status, please complete a Request for Stipulation to Disability Inactive Status Form. Medical records and supporting documentation are required. Submit the completed form and supporting documentation to Status Changes, Washington State Bar Association, 1325 Fourth Ave., Suite 600, Seattle, WA 98101 or by email to statuschanges@wsba.org.

The WSBA will review your Request for Stipulation to Disability Inactive Status form and supporting materials. Additional materials or information may be requested of you. Although this is not a disciplinary matter, the Office of Disciplinary Counsel  prepares the stipulation. After you and disciplinary counsel sign the stipulation, it will be presented to the Disciplinary Board for review.

Return to Active Status and Removal of Incapacity

To return to Active status from Disability Inactive status, you must petition the Disciplinary Board for transfer to Active status. You have the burden of showing that the incapacity to practice law has been removed. See ELC/ELLLTC/ELPOC 8.8. In addition, you must meet the same requirements of Inactive Status returning to Active Status.

Any discrepancy or conflict between the information provided here and the rules and regulations set by the Washington Supreme Court, or the Bylaws and policies of the Washington State Bar Association, is unintentional and will be resolved in favor of strict compliance with the rules, regulations, Bylaws and policies.