Saturday, March 8, 2008

Paralegal Sued for UPL

LINDENHURST, N.Y. -- Arthur Chisholm, Jr. is being sued by the state attorney general's office for allegedlypracticing law without a license. The 61 year old paralegal prepared wills, divorce papers, and eviction papers and ran Landlord Help Center and NY Protective Services Inc.

An undercover investigation revealed that Chisholm would sometimes refer to himself as an "attorney-in-fact" and charged for services without the proper credentials. Chisholm maintains that he had been told by the attorney general's office that he could prepare legal documents and wills as long as he didn't list himself as the agent. He asserted that he prepared documents and did not represent himself as an attorney.

Here's the kicker, though:

But a spokesman for the attorney general's office said that Chisolm "exceeded the normal tasks that a paralegal would perform."

The paralegal profession is not regulated at all. There is no set of "normal tasks that a paralegal would perform." If Chisholm was giving legal advice, that is a different set of circumstances. But if the attorney general's office told him that he could prepare documents, he was doing nothing wrong.

There is a very fine line between working as a paralegal and engaging in UPL. Perhaps it's time to put regulations in place so that paralegals like Chisholm aren't pushed over that line. With those regulations in place, and with ethics CLEs attached to those regulations, it becomes less likely that paralegals like Chisholm and his clients would find themselves in this position.

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