Legal Ethics – More on UPL (Unauthorized Practice of Law)

The California Rules of Professional Conduct (CRPC) which apply to lawyers in California and by extension their support staff including paralegals provides the following on UPL (Unauthorized Practice of Law):

Rule 1-300 Unauthorized Practice of Law

(A) A member shall not aid any person or entity in the unauthorized practice of law.

(B) A member shall not practice law in a jurisdiction where to do so would be in violation of regulations of the profession in that jurisdiction

This, of course, is to be read in concert with the prohibition in Business and Professions code 6450. The bottom line for the paralegal is that not only can he or she not engage in UPL, but also they cannot aid or assist anyone in UPL. This is an area in which paralegals need to be vigilant to avoid trouble and potential liability.

Unauthorized Practice of Law (UPL)

An area in which California paralegals often get into trouble if they are not careful is UPL (Unauthorized Practice of Law). According to California Business and Professions Code section 6450, paralegals in California shall not do the following:

Provide legal Advice
Represent a client in court
Select, explain, draft or recommend the use of any legal document to or for any person other than the attorney who directs and supervises the paralegal.
Act as a runner or capper, as defined in Sections 6151 and 6152.
Engage in conduct that constitutes the practice of law
Contract with or be employed by, a natural person other than an attorney to perform paralegal services.
In connection with providing paralegal services, induce a person to make an investment, purchase a financial product or service, or enter a transaction from which income or profit, or both, purportedly may be derived.
Established the fees to charge a client for the services the paralegal performs. . .

Paralegals need to learn this list of “shall not” conduct in order to avoid crossing the line into UPL. Paralegals, by definition, work for attorneys. They do not work for members of the public directly. Those who work for the public directly may not call themselves “paralegals.” This may be unpopular among some who call themselves “paralegals,” but it is the law.

Paralegal Essentials – Ethics Quiz

Test your knowledge of legal ethics in California.  See how well you do.  If you intend to be a Paralegal or Legal Document Assistant (LDA), you need to be very familiar with the ethical rules that apply to lawyers and their staff.

1.  Giving legal advice includes:

a.  Directing a client how to proceed in a matter that potentially has legal consequences.

b.  Helping a client fill out court-related forms.

c.  Explaining to a client his or her legal rights and responsibilities.

d.  A and C only.

2.  The term “independent Paralegal”  in California can include a Legal Document Assistant.    TRUE or FALSE

3.  Lawyers are obligated not to aid in the unauthorized practice of law.  TRUE or FALSE

4.  Law students can make court appearances without supervision of an attorney.  TRUE or FALSE

5.  The emergence of the paralegal profession has resulted in the increase of unauthorized practice of law prosecutions.  TRUE or FALSE

6.  Representing oneself in a lawsuit can be considered the unauthorized practice of law.  TRUE or FALSE

7.  No one definitive list of activities constitutes the practice of law.  TRUE or FALSE

8.  According to the generally understood definition o the practice of law, the preparation of court pleadings and other papers related to a lawsuit and the management of the lawsuit is generally included within the definition of the practice of law.  TRUE OR FALSE

9.  Education for Paralegals in California

a.  Is required by law

b.  Is required by the job market

c.  Requires an associate’s degree

d.  Requires a law degree

10. The only California law that is relevant to legal ethics is the California Business and Professional Code.   TRUE or FALSE.

Answers in Monday’s blog.

Legal Ethics (Quiz – Key)

1.  In California, another name for a paralegal is LEGAL ASSISTANT.

2.  AAfPE is a professional association responsible for setting educational standards for paralegals?

3.    In California, a(n) LEGAL DOCUMENT ASSISTANT (Preparer) is a legal services provider who offers services directly to the public for a fee without attorney supervision, usually by supplying forms and procedural information relating to simple or routine legal procedures.

4.  The most serious sanction imposed on lawyers for ethical misconduct is DISBARMENT.

5.  For a lawyer who is disciplined, what might he or she argue to lessen the proposed punishment?

MITIGATING FACTORS

6.  True or false (circle one)  For uniformity, the definition of paralegal is the same in all 50 states.

7.  True or false (circle one)  Lawyers in all fifty states are regulated by the Federal Government.

8.  True or false (circle one)  Lawyers have no liability for the mistakes of their paralegals.

9.  True or false (circle one) In California, Legal Document Assistants must register in each county in which they work.

10.  True or false (circle one) Paralegals in California can be disciplined by the State Bar for violations of the ethical rules of professional conduct.

Hopefully, you scored high in ethics.   If not, keep studying!

Legal Ethics (Quiz)

Test your basic knowledge of legal ethics:

1.  In California, another name for a paralegal is _______________.

2.   ________________is a professional association responsible for setting educational standards for paralegals?

3.    In California, a(n) ____________________ is a legal services provider who offers services directly to the public for a fee without attorney supervision, usually by supplying forms and procedural information relating to simple or routine legal procedures.

4.  The most serious sanction imposed on lawyers for ethical misconduct is _______________________.

5.  For a lawyer who is disciplined, what might he or she argue to lessen the proposed punishment?

______________________ (hint 2 words and the 2nd word is “factors”)

6.  True or false (circle one)  For uniformity, the definition of paralegal is the same in all 50 states.

7.  True or false (circle one)  Lawyers in all fifty states are regulated by the Federal Government.

8.  True or false (circle one)  Lawyers have no liability for the mistakes of their paralegals.

9.  True or false (circle one) In California, Legal Document Assistants must register in each county in which they work.

10.  True or false (circle one) Paralegals in California can be disciplined by the State Bar for violations of the ethical rules of professional conduct.

See tomorrow’s post for the answers.

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