The Large Number of License Problems
The National Occupational Licensing Database, part of the National Conference of State Legislatures, indicates that nearly one in four American workers need an occupational license or government approval to practice their profession. We tend to think of doctors, lawyers, nurses, and perhaps accountants and engineers as needing licenses or certifications. But the National Occupational Licensing Database found that most states require a license for at least forty-eight other growing occupations requiring no more than a four-year degree. Most states require licenses for occupations ranging from athletic trainers and commercial fishermen to insurance agents, milk samplers, and security technicians. That's a lot of licenses.
And with licenses come license problems. The National Occupational Licensing Database indicates that the primary purpose that state legislatures and other licensing bodies have in requiring a license is to protect the public from health and safety risks. By definition, professionals hold special expertise. The public entrusts professionals with special powers and privileges. Poor professional practices can harm individual patients and clients and also harm the public. Incompetent, dishonest, corrupt, or otherwise dangerous professionals can make a mess of things for the people who must rely on them or choose to rely on them. And while every bushel has one or two bad apples, professionals can also run into common problems. Professionals are people, and people have common problems.
Why Causes Are Important
Before examining some of the common causes of license issues, first appreciate why causes are important. Complying with professional rules is important. But compliance isn't just knowing the rules. Compliance requires following the rules. When professionals instead violate the rules, they usually know the rules. They just had some cause or reason not to follow the rules. Disciplinary officials know that rule violations often have causes in the professional's circumstances, character, and commitments. Disciplinary officials weren't born yesterday. They know the sources of license problems. Disciplinary officials also expect the professional to address the sources of the issues, not just the problem.
The professional, too, should want to address the problem's source. Otherwise, the professional may just repeat the problem. Unless the professional addresses the problem's source, the professional hasn't truly addressed the problem. Indeed, identifying and addressing the license issue's cause can go a long way toward a successful defense of the license. Causes are important. Here are some of those common causes of license issues and why they are important. This website's detailed breakout pages treat several of these causes in greater depth. Retain professional license defense attorney Joseph D. Lento at 888.535.3686 or online if you face one or more of these license issues. Let attorney Lento help you get to the root of the problem.
Poor Mental or Physical Health
No one is in perfect health all the time. We all suffer mental or physical illnesses, disease, and disability, at one time or another. Surprising to some, psychological or physical disability is indeed a common source of professional license issues. Poor mental health can mean loss of concentration, memory, or other cognitive function critical for the professional's competent performance. The physician with hidden but oncoming dementia can create significant risks for patients whose physician ignores or forgets history. The lawyer who suffers from acute depression can create considerable risks for the client whose matter needs the lawyer's keen mental energy, commitment, and concentration. Poor mental health can also contribute to the misuse and abuse of marijuana, prescription or illicit drugs, and alcohol. Poor physical health can likewise contribute to prescription addictions, marijuana misuse, absenteeism, and neglect of professional duties.
When poor mental or physical health is the cause of a license issue, the professional may, with skilled legal representation, have a greater likelihood of a successful license defense. Indeed, many states, including New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York, offer professionals varying forms of voluntary recovery programs. Voluntary recovery programs help professionals seek treatment for diagnosed mental or physical illness, including substance abuse disorders, while delaying or avoiding license discipline. Committing to treatment of the underlying condition may enable the professional to preserve the license, even when the professional committed clear license violations.
Substance Abuse and Addictions
Substance abuse can be both a source of license issues and a manifestation of deeper causes. Substance abuse can contribute to license issues in several ways. The effect of the drug and its abuse on the professional's cognitive function can cause lapses in attention, concentration, and memory, to the point of making the professional perform incompetently or fail to perform at all when duty requires performance. Professionals who abuse drugs may neglect professional matters or practice those matters below accepted standards. Professionals who abuse drugs may also be violating drug laws, exposing them to a criminal conviction. In some cases, professionals abusing drugs may be involved in theft or drug dealing, constituting other serious crimes.
Some drug addictions find their cause in diagnosable mental or physical illnesses or disorders. As just indicated, state governments and licensing bodies may offer voluntary recovery programs, also known as professional assistance programs, for the professional to get addiction treatment while delaying or avoiding license discipline. Those programs, though, tend to require a diagnosed underlying mental or physical illness or disorder. Substance abuse that instead involves lifestyle and recreation choices, rather than an underlying psychological or physical disorder, won't find much compassion from disciplinary authorities.
Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
Alcohol abuse and alcoholism are other common causes of professional license issues. Alcohol abuse can affect a professional's attention, concentration, reasoning, memory, and mood. The alcoholic professional may neglect matters or perform outside of accepted standards. The professional who abuses alcohol may also have mood swings and engage in disorderly conduct and incivilities, affecting patient, client, or colleague relationships. Alcohol abuse can also contribute to drunk driving or disorderly persons offenses, which professional rules may define as misconduct. The public must trust professionals. The professional who incurs a DWI or DUI may have lost that trust, and so, the profession will discipline. Voluntary recovery programs may apply and may forestall or reduce discipline. But qualifying for those programs may also require special circumstances and skilled attorney advocacy.
Inappropriate Professional Relationships
Unstable, inappropriate, or harassing professional relationships are another common cause of professional license issues. When professional colleagues cannot or do not trust and respect one another, their disputes can lead to license issues. The protege whose mentor violates conduct rules may get drawn into the violations. The professional partners who dispute partnership responsibilities may neglect, mishandle, or misappropriate patient or client matters. The professional who pursues a colleague romantically, when that colleague does not welcome the pursuit, may harass or discriminate. Professionals who enter into intimate or business relationships with their patients or clients risk other rule violations. When professionals can't keep their professional relationships straight, they often face related license issues.
Mismanagement of personal and professional finances is another common cause of professional license issues. Mismanaging personal finances can contribute to personal credit unworthiness, contract breaches, mortgage defaults, and bankruptcy. Poor personal finances, and the related inability to provide for one's basic needs, can affect one's ability to perform professionally. If you can't pay for phone service, transportation, and housing, work absenteeism and performance can quickly become a problem. Mismanaging personal finances can also tempt the professional into misuse of professional funds. The bankrupt accountant doesn't make a very trustworthy manager of a client's money. Mismanaging professional finances can be even worse for license issues. Mishandling client funds can lead to civil claims for conversion and criminal charges of embezzlement. Keep your financial house in order if you intend to avoid financial license issues. And avoid or disclose conflicts of interest. Failing to disclose or avoid conflicts is a common form of misconduct for financial professionals.
Unstable and Burdensome Family Relationships
Unstable and burdensome family relationships are another common cause of professional license issues. Simply having a close family member fall seriously ill may require the professional to alter or curtail professional commitments to care for the family member. Professionals may neglect or mishandle those professional commitments if not acting thoughtfully and carefully. Professionals who suffer from abusive domestic or family relationships may not be physically or mentally able to practice competently and reliably. Professionals who commit domestic violence face criminal charges and civil restraining orders. Disciplinary officials may suspend or revoke a license based on those charges, convictions, or orders alone. If the charges, convictions, and restraints on their own do not cause a license suspension or revocation, then their stress and disruption may lead to neglect or mishandling of professional duties. Professionals facing license issues can often point to their personal relationships as a root cause of the issues.
Sexual misconduct is another common source for professional license issues. For example, disciplinary authorities may judge unfit for practice the medical professional who views pornography. Pornography displayed or viewable by others in the professional workplace may also constitute harassment. Disciplinary authorities may also judge unfit for practice medical and legal professionals who solicit prostitution. Professionals who engage in sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or sexual innuendo in professional settings may have violated employment anti-discrimination laws, subjecting them to license discipline. Sexual misconduct can quickly affect colleague relationships, just as sexual misconduct can affect public reputation, respect, confidence, and trust. Professionals should be especially careful to avoid sexual misconduct.
Criminal Charges and Convictions
Criminal arrests, charges, and convictions are another common source for professional license issues. Sometimes, the criminal conduct directly affects the professional's performance, such as when a health professional sexually assaults a patient or a financial professional converts client funds. Criminal conduct relating directly to the professional's performance is an obvious licensing concern. Yet disciplinary authorities may also be interested in criminal arrests, charges, and convictions that do not relate directly to the professional's performance, if the conduct shows disrespect for law and order or person and property. Remember, disciplinary authorities concern themselves not just with professional performance but also with public trust. The professional who brings disrepute to the profession by, for instance, soliciting prostitution, may face license discipline even if the criminal conduct doesn't clearly relate to professional performance.
Poor Organizational Culture and Excessive Work Demands
Excessive work demands, especially when combined with inadequate mentoring and supervision, can be another common cause of professional license issues. Studies of healthcare professionals indicate poor organizational culture, or the “bad barrel” phenomenon, as a leading cause of professional misconduct. A professional who works too many hours can manifest issues with mental and physical health. Poor mental and physical health can lead to performance issues and substance abuse. The professional who faces excessive work demands may also neglect work or perform work below accepted standards, leading to disciplinary charges of incompetence. Excessive work demands can also lead to burnout, absenteeism, and sudden voluntary termination of employment, from which neglect and malpractice charges may result. Appropriate supervision and mentoring would help address excessive work demands, but the professional may not find assistance and relief when supervision and mentoring are absent.
Professional License Defense Attorney Help
Being a professional is not always easy. Professional practices can create extraordinary risks and have extraordinary demands. Professional license defense attorney Joseph D. Lento knows the challenges that professionals face. He also understands the common and uncommon causes of license issues. Attorney Lento is himself a hardworking, self-made professional. Drawing on his character and commitment, he has successfully represented many professionals in license defense. Attorney Lento has the compassion to understand, the character to make a steadfast commitment, and the skills to make a difference in professional license defense. Trust an attorney who has successfully preserved the licenses of many high-reputation, high-income, and other dedicated professionals. Attorney Lento has represented professionals in many different fields, from physicians and nurses to lawyers, accountants, engineers, and hardworking trades professionals. Retain professional license defense attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm for your license defense. Call 888.535.3686 now or use the online service.