MEMORANDUM TO: WILL SMITH, ESQ. FROM: QI ZHENG, PARALEGAL DATE: December 20, 2004 RE: RESEARCH ON ISSUE OF CASE NO. 1. DIANA LEWIS. INTRODUCTION You have asked me to determine whether our client Diana Lewis committed unauthorized practice of law by providing her services.
I have done research on statutes and cases. This memorandum will address the issue of this case, California Bar's claim, and Ms. Lewis's possible defense. STATEMENT OF FACTS In May 2001, Diana Lewis earned her Associate of Art degree and Paralegal Certificate from City College of San Francisco. In June 2001, Ms. Lewis opened her business to prepare legal paperwork for clients involved in uncontested divorces.
She advertises her business in the Daily Journal and the Recorder. She charges no more than $75 for the complete package of paperwork and has assisted 25 clients to date. Because Ms. Lewis's clients are not familiar with the legal terminology and some of them are illiterate, Ms. Lewis is compelled to ask questions and hold conferences with them.
The day before the client's court hearing, Ms. Lewis meets with her client to discuss what he or she can expect during the hearing. Ms. Lewis does not accompany the client to the hearing. Diana Lewis has been charged by the California Bar with unauthorized practice of law. ISSUE Did Ms.
Lewis practice law when she provided such legal document service? BRIEF ANSWER No. California Bar could make a case that Ms. Lewis gave legal advice. But when she helped her clients with "uncontested" divorce document, she did not give specific advice by which the client's particular legal rights were secured. She simply helped interpret instructions on preparing the general legal forms at her clients' request.
Such sales and services are legitimate. DISCUSSION In Cal Bus & Prof Code SS 6125, "[n]o person shall practice law in California unless the person is an active member of the State Bar." Diana Lewis dose not have law school education and did not pass California Bar Exams. She is not an active member of the State Bar. So she cannot practice law in California. The issue is whether she practiced law. In Cal Bus & Prof Code SS 6400, "[a] legal document assistant may not provide any kind of advice, explanation, opinion, or recommendation to a consumer about possible legal rights, remedies, defenses, options, selection of forms, or strategies." Diana Lewis dose not work under an attorney's supervision and is not contracted to any law firm or attorney.
She works as an independent legal document assistant. The issue is whether she provided advice about possible legal rights, defense, strategies, etc. In the People v. Landlords Professional Services, 215 Cal. App. 3 d 1599; 264 Cal.
Rptr. 548, the court held that when a non-attorney consults his or her clients individually and presents himself or herself with expertise concerning certain legal problem, he or she is engaged in unauthorized practice of law. The court's reason for affirming conviction against LPS is that the company provided specific information to its clients concerning eviction procedure in the context of personal interviews where it was able to provide additional information and advice addressed to the specific problems and concerns of its clients, who were likely to rely on its advice, perhaps to their serious detriment. This case is similar to Diana Lewis's case in that both Ms. Lewis and LPS's representatives are not authorized to practice law. Both cases have the same issue of definition of practice of law.
They both provided legal document service. The difference is that LPS held individual interviews with its clients and gave specific advice, whereas Ms. Lewis held conference with her clients. However, Ms. Lewis did discuss with her clients before the court hearing. State Bar could argue it is possible for Ms.
Lewis to provide additional advice concerning specific problems if her clients. Yet at the same time, Ms. Lewis only discussed about what her clients could expect during the hearing rather than providing advice that her clients would rely on regarding to their problems. In the People v. Albert A. Sipper, 61 Cal.
App. 2 d Supp. 844; 142 P. 2 d 960, the court held that a non-attorney commits unauthorized practice of law when he or she provides legal advice and counsel and the preparation of legal instrument and contracts by which legal rights are secured. The court's reason for decision against Sipper is that he advised his clients a specific kind of document in order to secure a loan with real property when the clients did not ask for it. People v.
Sipper has the same similarity to Ms. Lewis's case as the Landlords Professional Services does. Sipper is different than Ms. Lewis in that Ms.
Lewis deals with "uncontested" divorces where the process and forms are general and no specific instrument needs to be prepared in order to secure the clients' rights. In Mark Brocken et al. v. Walter Moore, 107 Cal.
App. 4 th 86; 131 Cal. Rptr. 2 d 746, the court held that when a non-lawyer advertises as an expert in legal matters, he or she commits unauthorized practice of law. The court reasons that Walter Moore, under names such as "Legal Aid" and "Legal Aid Services," operated a business that offered typing service for eviction cases. Such practice constituted unauthorized practice of law.
In addition it violates Unfair Competition Law at the same time. Walter Moore is similar to Ms. Lewis in that they are both non-lawyers and provided legal document service. Also, they both advertised locally. Walter Moore listed in the phone book under "Legal Aid" directory. Here we need more details about Ms.
Lewis's advertisement such as the wordings and under what section it was printed. CONCLUSION California code prohibits Diana Lewis to practice law. The issue is whether Ms. Lewis actually practiced law.
According to the statute and court opinion, the key point is whether a non-lawyer provides advice or prepares legal instruments that would secure the party's legal rights. From the fats at hand, I do not see Diana Lewis have provided individual client with specific advice that would affect his or her legal rights. In fact, in the case of "uncontested" divorce, such practice of legal advice is not usually needed. Some detail information on Ms.
Lewis's advertisement and her discussion with clients will be needed to help with her defense.