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Mayor Skip Priest suspended from state bar, and that's OK
Federal Way Mayor Skip Priest was suspended from the Washington State Bar Association.
As of May 1, he can no longer legally practice law in Washington. The administrative suspension stems from non-payment of insurance, according to the state bar.
He's not too worried. Priest's entire law career has consisted of one case, he said. In the Federal Way Municipal Court, he represented a defendant with a speeding ticket — and won.
In Federal Way, Mahlon S. Priest is better known as the city's first elected mayor and a former Republican state representative.
To stay active in the state bar, lawyers must take several hours of CLE, known as continuing legal education. Priest said the state bar suspension was a result of his decision to forego continuing education and to not renew his license.
As mayor, Priest runs the day-to-day operations of a city with nearly 90,000 residents.
"I just don't have time for continuing education right now," Priest said. "We're swamped."
Priest earned a law degree from George Washington University in 1976. He was admitted to the Washington State Bar Association in 1986. He still has membership in the Virginia State Bar, which he joined in 1976.
Why did Priest earn a law degree and not practice law? Halfway through law school, he had a change of heart.
"I decided I didn't want to be a lawyer," he said. Priest finished law school anyway, then landed a job as a legislative assistant for Oregon Sen. Bob Packwood. From there, he transitioned into the business world, with careers in finance in New York before owning small businesses in Washington.
In 2002, he was elected to the state House of Representatives, where his legal training helped in the process of developing laws. In 2010, he was elected mayor of Federal Way.
"Law school was the first step," Priest said, noting how the degree enhanced his career. "Law training helped me a lot."
In Washington, admittance to the bar association is mandatory for lawyers who wish to practice law in the state. In some states, such as Illinois, bar association membership is voluntary.
According to the state bar, Washington lawyers "are not required to have professional liability insurance coverage. However, they are required to report to the Washington State Bar Association, on a yearly basis, whether they have coverage. Failure to comply with the disclosure requirement will result in administrative suspension from practice until the information is disclosed, in the same way that lawyers may be suspended for failure to comply with the continuing legal education reporting requirements, but it is not a disciplinary violation.”