Unauthorized Practice of Law in Georgia
(Georgia Capitol Building)
As a Virtual Freelance Legal Assistant, I often worry about pro se litigants, as we have been there ourselves, and even though we have and do work with attorneys on a constant, we realize what it is like to be involved in our case, and no one to ask questions of. When we were first involved in our own case, as a pro se litigant, I would have given almost anything just to have someone I could ask questions to.
For some reason, the Bars of the numerous states, at some time, decided that they have a monopoly on the law. Hell, recently I was told by an investigator of the State of Georgia Bar, that the name I was using for my company, (ProLegal Svcs.) could no longer be used. He told me:
1) that he is not an attorney, and
2) anything with Legal Services in it for a name, I could not use.
So if giving legal advice is illegal, when one is not an attorney, how can an investigator for the GA Bar, who is not an attorney, give me legal advice about what I can and cannot use in a company name? That is double standard. Like you can’t do it, because I said so, and I can do it, even if it is illegal.
Yea right, let’s take that real seriously.
Anyway, someone had paid me to do research for them. I didn’t know what they were going to do with the research. None of my business, right? Well the lady, who did not have a lawsuit filed anywhere, as a pro se litigant, filed a quiet title action in the county where she lives. They have “Pro Se Forms” there. I guess everyone who plans to proceed pro se in that county has to fill out a form. I kind of think that violates one’s rights, but nevertheless… The form asked if anyone assisted her, and did she pay anyone for assistance, and would she be willing to pay someone to assist her.
Since I had done research prior to her filing the case, she put “Yes” and that she had paid me “x” amount of dollars. Which she had paid me for the research. She put my company name, and my name, address and phone number on the form. She didn’t know that someone was going to decide that I had engaged in unauthorized practice of law because of that. I hadn’t given her legal advice,I hadn’t told her anything really. She asked me to do legal research on quiet titles, I did, I gave her the research, she paid me, and we went our separate ways.
About a week later, I got a call from the GA Bar Investigator. Apparently, the Pro Se Form has several different reasons. One is to see why you didn’t hire an attorney, and other, is so that the Superior Court in GA can turn into the Bar, anyone who you put on the form that had assisted you for any reason.
The Investigator called me up on a Thursday afternoon. I called him back, because I was not in when he called. I had missed him, at a little after 3PM.
The next day, the Invetigator called me back. We had, what I thought, had been a rather pleasant conversation. He told me about the company name, and I reluctantly agreed to no longer use the name. But after all, I purchased the domain name for a reason. The other company name that I use, is J&J Freelance Paralegal (http://www.freelanceparalegal.co). Guess that I am glad he didn’t know about that name, or he would have most likely told me that I couldn’t use that one either. Hell, I have had a website under that name for close to ten years.
At the end of the conversation, the Investigator told me that he sees that I had not practiced law illegally, but that he was going to send me a cease and desist order and some information. The next day, a Saturday, the mailman blew for us to come out. The Investigator had sent me a large ring notebook full of cases where the GA Bar had prosecuted numerous people for unauthorized practice of law (“UPL”). Most of these people had long rap sheets for anything from theft, to drugs, to UPL.
Clearly, I couldn’t be in the same category as those people. It was kind of hard to take the whole thing seriously after reading some of the cases. I don’t have a rap sheet, I haven’t been arrested before, for anything.
The following Monday, I recieved a packet in the Mail from the Investigator. Within the package, was three (3) of the same AFfidavit of Cease and Desist. The affidavit admits that I am guilty of unauthorized practice of law, that I understand what Georgia Code Section states about the law, and that I will no longer violate the law. Of course, a break down of the statutes on UPL was included.
I had never done the things that were in the statute, or in the Affidavit, and especially not within the notebook for people with rap sheets. Sure UPL is a misdemeanor, but I had not violated the law, and the Invesigator’s letter said to sign tow of the the Affidavits of guilt in front of a Notary, have the Notary notarize the two Affidavits of Guilt, and mail them back to him.
So, it is a misdemeanor to give legal advice, if you are not an attorney. I was contacted by an Investigator for the Bar, who told me outright, that he is not an attorney. This investigator gave me legal advice, (to change the name of my company, and that I need to cease and desist), yet he was not an attoney, he told me that he wasn’t. no less than three (3) times, he told me that he wasn’t an attorney. So, he is now guilty of UPL; where as I have never been guilty of UPL.
The hypocracy of the whole thing, is ridiculous! I had two (2) attorneys that I know, that work in different lawfirms and different offices, read the Affidavit and tell me the same thing. The GA Bar is trying to get me to admit to guilt. That is ludicrous! Rather than give me a warning ticket, like they do when you get pulled over, and the cop really don’t have anything on you, but knows that you were most likely speeding, or something, the Bar wants me to sign and have notarized an Affidavit of Cease and Desist, admitting guilt for something I am not guilty of.
Be careful out there yall. Anyone, at anytime, can be accused of giving legal advice to someone. Never, never tell someone what the law says, that is giving legal advice. And for God’s sake, don’t type a legal document for someone, thatis UPL.