THE CALIFORNIA STATE BAR INVESTIGATES NON-ATTORNEYS AS WELL
While I worked at the State Bar I was part of specialized task force teams that investigated the unauthorized practice of law (UPL) (Business and Professions Code section 6126.3), abandoned law practices, disbarred attorneys, resigned attorneys; including physically/mentally ill attorneys who became incapable of handling their law offices.
However, over the last few years the State Bar has increased their enforcement policy against non-attorneys and has dedicated more time and resources to investigating non-attorneys, including bringing civil injunctions against people engaged in the unauthorized practice of law.
If after a thorough investigation, sometimes clandestine in nature, the State Bar may elect to file a Petition and Verified Application for Assumption of Jurisdiction over the Unauthorized Law Practice of one's legal services business. The State Bar does this by way of Ex Parte motion, that if served on you, expect to have to appear the next day in Superior Court to argue against the allegations.
If you choose to not appear, or appear in pro per (without legal representation) and lose the motion, the State Bar will ask the court for an order right then and there which will give the State Bar the ability to shut down your business that same day.
If the State Bar is successful on their Ex Parte motion, the order will usually include the following based on the Bar's request:
• Allows for the State Bar to examine, retrieve, remove, and secure in a protected area all files and records of your business.
• Allows the State Bar to notify all your clients that you are committing UPL.
• The State Bar will file an application with the court for the appointment of a receiver, to take possession and control of any all bank accounts relating to your business.
• The order also gives the State Bar the ability to photograph and video tape entry of your business, make and retain electronic or hard copies of all data and information retrieved, freeze all bank accounts, endorse any check received by the State Bar made payable to you or your business, direct the appropriate telephone company to disconnect phone lines and internet connections, and file a change of address notification with the USPS to forward all mail addressed to you and your business.
• Depending on the size and the nature of your business, the State Bar also will likely have moving trucks and local police department on hand to facilitate the moving process.
Once you are served with the State Bar's Ex Parte motion, call me right away to determine all your options, including my appearance in court on your behalf.
LEGAL DOCUMENT ASSISTANTS:
The State Bar is not concerned with you if you are a licensed legal document assistant (LDA) and you are complying with all the rules governing LDAs. However, the State Bar becomes concerned if you are either stepping over your bounds as an LDA or if you are holding yourself out as being able to do more than what an LDA does, such as practicing law.
Remember, LDA's cannot give advice or give legal opinions. If you are an LDA and a client asks you, “What should I do in a particular situation?” You may not answer. You may not give an opinion. Moreover, you may not even suggest to them what court forms they should use/file as this constitutes giving legal advice to the client.
This is a fine line which is easy to cross. If you are being investigated for UPL allegations, please give me a call.
California Business and Professions Code section 6450 (a) states a “Paralegal” is a person who holds himself or herself out to be a paralegal, who is qualified by education, training, or work experience, who either contracts with or is employed by an attorney, law firm, corporation, governmental agency, or other entity, and who performs substantial legal work under the direction and supervision of an active member of the State Bar of California, as defined in Section 6060, or an attorney practicing law in the federal courts of this state, that has been specifically delegated by the attorney to him or her.
What most people do not understand is a paralegal cannot exist without an attorney as the paralegal's employer. Even if employed by an attorney, paralegals must be supervised by that attorney. If you are a paralegal and you are doing legal work, please make sure you have direct supervision by a licensed attorney.
If you are a paralegal and you are being investigated by the State Bar for practicing law without a license, or holding yourself out as practicing law, please call me.
Whether you're an LDA, a paralegal, an immigration consultant, or just someone who engages in a business that can be possibly looked at as the practice of law, call me to discuss your potential issues.