Legal Ethics

Was law firm duped? 'Lawyer' practiced there a decade and won partnership; was she licensed?

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A Pennsylvania law firm says it was apparently deceived by a woman who practiced law there for nearly a decade and was promoted to partner in April.

The woman, Kimberly Kitchen, is under investigation as the state Attorney General’s office tries to determine whether she has a law license, report WJAC and the Huntingdon Daily News (sub. req.). She practiced estate-planning law at the BMZ Law Offices in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, which has covered up her name on the sign outside the law firm.

In a statement, BMZ said it was notified of “serious concerns” regarding the legitimacy of Kitchen’s law license on Dec. 19. The firm suspended Kitchen and launched an immediate investigation.

“Sadly, it would appear that our firm was the last, in a long line of professionals, to have been deceived by Ms. Kitchen into believing she was licensed to practice law,” the statement said. “While we have yet to learn all we must, we endeavor to continue our investigative efforts, remain fully cooperative with all the appropriate authorities and legal entities, while remaining vigilantly protective of client interests.”

The firm says it is “undertaking a thorough review of each and every file” that Kitchen may have handled.

Kitchen used an attorney ID number registered to a lawyer named Brian Funk, the Daily News says.

A former president of the Huntingdon County Bar Association who did not want to be identified offered some theories to the Daily News on how Kitchen was able to play the role of a lawyer. By working as an “estate planning specialist,” Kitchen was able to stay out of the courtroom, the former bar president said.

“She only worked on inheritance court documents and I believe the inheritance tax division does not look at the attorney ID number,” the former bar president said.

Kitchen also said she graduated from a law school that no one else in the area had attended, the former bar president said. According to WJAZ, Kitchen said she received her law degree from Duquesne University.

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