California is Considering New and Improved UPL Rules – Will it Happen?

You know those three little letters that you hear at every paralegal seminar. It causes experienced paralegals to cringe. It makes attorneys nervous. Yes, you guessed it, U.P.L., the all too familiar “Unauthorized Practice of Law,” the rule that states that a paralegal cannot practice law, establish attorney-client relationships, set fees or split fees with attorneys, give legal opinions or advice, or represent a client before a court or agency. Well, the State Bar of California has sought public comments to proposed regulations to create exceptions to allow licensed professionals to provide specified legal advice and services.
In response to a Legal Market Landscape Report commissioned by the State Bar of California, the Task Force on Access Through Innovation of Legal Services (ATILS) has decided to propose new regulatory changes to loosen the current UPL rules in the hopes that it will close the “justice gap,” the gap that exists between those who need legal assistance and the resources (or lack thereof) available to them.
Three of the task force’s 16 proposed regulatory changes and “recommendations for specific exceptions to the current restrictions on the UPL,” include:
• 2.0 – UPL Exception for Individual Legal Service Providers to Provide Specified Legal advice and Services with appropriate regulation

• 2.1 – UPL Exception (with appropriate Regulation) for Entities Composed of Lawyers, Legal Service Providers or a combination of the two, and

The State Bar announced that they were open to receiving public comments regarding the new proposals and that there would be a public hearing on August 10, 2019 at the State Bar of California in San Francisco to discuss same. Shortly after the 60 day public comment period began, the online comments in support and in opposition to the proposed UPL reform options started rolling in. As of August 5, 420 comments were received by over 200 commenters. About 200 of those comments were submitted in opposition to the UPL regulatory proposals, and only about 15 were in favor.
Those in favor stated:
If we are educated enough to give our lawyers advice on the law, and in turn they use our research to inform the client, then under certain circumstances we should be able to deal with the public directly… [C]ontract paralegals bring clients to the attorneys and should be able to share in the proceeds, especially if they are doing all the work. . . This will only allow the attorney and paralegal to build a firm and both parties mutually benefiting. I completely support this agenda!” – Contract Paralegal in CA

It would help keep the flow of cases in the courts because so many people are representing themselves as per pro without basic knowledge of the law or legal abilities to file the proper motions to meet deadlines, which impact their rights to a fair and impartial judicial process.“ – Supporter from San Leandro, CA.

As other states move to allow nonlawyers to provide legal services, it is time for California to move in this direction too. Many Californians are currently denied legal services because they cannot afford to pay [attorneys].” Supporter in CA

In order for law firms to innovate and become more efficient, it is needed [sic]to have skills of different viewpoints in ownership level decisions.” – Law firm in Mountain View, CA

Not everyone was as optimistic about legal service providers practicing law–those in opposition stated:
Non-lawyers do not operate under the same ethical obligations or with any comparable training/education, and as such, are not obligated or qualified to give competent legal advice … an unrestricted non-lawyer giving any kind of erroneous legal advice would undoubtedly harm the public.” – Anonymous commenter from Glendale, CA

“… non lawyers [are] dragging down the practice of law.” – Anonymous worker’s comp attorney in Orange, CA.

This is going to erode the quality of legal services in the state by allowing unlicensed individuals to give legal advice and own law firms. It is going to devalue my license and hurt the public.” – CA Attorney

California is already overrun with too many lawyers, as the state allows non-traditional, non-accredited paths to the profession. As a lawyer, I have invested a significant amount of RESOURCES (financial, time, etc.) to be able to practice my profession and to do so competently. It is a high bar for a reason. I have worked hard to get where I am at. Your suggestion to allow non-lawyers to provide legal advice is wrong for so many reasons. I would like my profession to at least maintain the little bit of respect and dignity it has left here in California. Not to mention, you are cutting into the livelihoods of people who have made the investments. Many of us incurred massive debt to be able to provide legal advice.” – Attorney in San Bernardino County, CA

With non-lawyers investing in and driving the practice model, clients will be all but guaranteed a profit-driven experience with their lawyers, where the handling of their matters will be affected more by the “bottom line” than their best legal interests.” – Lawyer in Oakland, CA

On August 10th, 2019, the time came to give verbal comments. I went to the State Bar of California, it was my first time there. Given that I had read that many people opposed the proposed regulations, I was expecting many attorneys to show up with pitchforks, but to my surprise, just the opposite happened.
Many people at the hearing gave testimony thanking the task force committee for putting the topic on the discussion table. The committee received words of encouragement, and generally many, including attorneys, talking about how they could see this working. I was surprised to see that many of the people who showed up were actually speaking of non-lawyers in a positive way. The State Bar video recorded the hearing.

While it’s still early and we don’t know how this will end, one thing is for sure–if these regulatory proposed changes are approved, it will dramatically change the traditional legal landscape as we’ve known it in a radical way. Stay tuned.

~ Elizabeth Olvera is the former president of the San Francisco Paralegal Association, she is a Paralegal, Registered Legal Document Assistant, and Immigration Consultant at Olvera & Associates, and is proud that she directly impacts her community to gain access to affordable legal assistance.
Links:
Webcast of August 10, 2019 hearing at the State Bar of California

Note: These are the opinions of the author, and not the opinion of any board or association that she is a member or director of.

Potential Consequences For Paralegals Not Meeting Their MCLE Requirements In California/

Since January 1, 2007 paralegals have been required to certify that they have completed a certain number of hours participating in mandatory continuing legal education (MCLE) workshops. According to Business and Professions Code section 6450(d), paralegals must complete the following MCLE hours every two years:

  • 4 hours of legal ethics
  • 4 hours of general law or specialized law

Unlike attorneys, paralegals are not required to submit their certifications to the state bar or any other overseeing entity. Paralegals are only required to provide those certifications to their supervising attorney. There is no specific format in which the certifications must be presented to the supervising attorney.

Given the lack of oversight over the paralegal certifications and the strenuous demands of a busy paralegal’s workload, it can become easy for a paralegal to not be in compliance with 6450(d).

There may be consequences for a paralegal who has not met all of their MCLE hours. For example, opposing counsel can dispute paying the firm’s professional fees for a paralegal’s billable time. Given that paralegals perform a majority of the tasks on his certain cases the amount of money that can be discounted from the professional legal fees, due to lack of certification, can be large.

Also, the local rules of certain courts require that fees requested for time billed by a paralegal must be supported by the attorney’s declaration regarding the paralegal’s compliance with Business and Professions Code section 6450.

In addition this issue may also come up if a well informed client disputes the paralegal’s billable time and decides that they don’t want to pay the legal fees.

Furthermore, many job postings looking to hire paralegals, indicate that candidates must be in compliance with Business and Professions Code section 6450, which includes the MCLE requirements of section 6450(d).

But most importantly given the way that the Business and Professions code is written, a paralegal is someone who is in compliance with the requirements of Business and Professions Code section 6450, which include subsection (d), and therefore, if a paralegal has not met the hours requirement, they can’t call themselves a paralegal.

 

Business and Professions Code section 6450(d) states: Every two years . . . a paralegal shall be required to certify completion of four hours of mandatory continuing legal education in legal ethics and four hours of mandatory continuing legal education in either general law or in an area of specialized law. All continuing legal education courses shall meet the requirements of Section 6070. Certification . . . shall be made with the paralegal’s supervising attorney. The paralegal shall be responsible for keeping a record of the paralegal’s certifications.

Although paralegals are only required to do a total of eight hours of MCLE within two years, it is advisable that a paralegal take as many MCLE courses as possible to ensure that they stay current on topics that are relevant in the fields that they practice in.

How to get Freelance Paralegal work on Craigslist

Hello, I’ve created a video to share my Craigslist post that gets me projects from attorneys. The best ways to get work is through referrals from other attorneys that are familiar with your work product and work ethic. However, until you start getting those kinds of referrals from attorneys, you can try this!

This worked for me, it can work for you. You should probably start figuring out how much to charge for certain projects, or what your rate will be.
This does not replace other traditional ways of finding employment, such as cold calling,  sending out flyers, networking, etc.

How to become a Legal Document Assistant

Below is a list of various tools that are handy when conducting a Legal Document Assistant business. I am not affiliated with any of the companies or links below, I’m just trying to share my knowledge with other LDAs. I just wish that I knew about these when I was first starting out.

  1. Software
  • Forms WorkFlow (American LegalNet, Inc.) – www.formsworkflow.com/
  • Martin Dean’s – www.essentialpublishers.com/
  • Westlaw Doc & Form Builder (Thomson Reuters) – http://legalsolutions.thomsonreuters.com/Document Software
  • Legal forms software is a must have for legal document assistants to manage their work and cases. Forms software allows the LDA to type directly onto legal forms and save their work. Many of these programs have a feature that allows you to store detailed information that enables you to auto-populate certain fields on additional forms, thus saving you lots of time so you are not retyping the same information over and over. Although most forms are available free of charge online or directly from the court, these programs provide additional benefits that you can’t get elsewhere, such as “shrink-to-fit” and auto-fill across various forms. One of the benefits of this software is that the software updates their forms to conform to the always changing law. Please note: some programs send you the updated forms automatically free of charge with your purchase, other programs may charge you for the updates.
  • CutePDF Writer (Acro Software)- www.cutepdf.com/products/cutepdf/writer.asp
  • Allows you to “print” files and save them as PDFs without having to print a hard copy first. The documents can be saved directly from the application that created it. My favorite part about this printer is its name. Gotta love it!
  • eFax – www.efax.comGoogle Voice – www.google.com/googlevoice/FileSharing
  • This program allows all of your devices to ring when your customers call one number.
  • With eFax you can send and receive faxes through e-mail, share large files and digitally sign your faxes.
  • DropBox www.dropbox.com/
  • OneDrive (formerly SkyDrive) (Microsoft) – onedrive.live.com/Equipment
  • These programs allow you to save large amounts of documents to a drive that you can access from the web or any other device. When you make edits to the document on one device, the changes are automatically updated on all your other devices.
  • Laptop
  • Printer/Scanner
  • Copier Dymo LabelWriter Mobile Printer (optional)

http://www.ehow.com/how_5519761_become-california-legal-document-preparer.html#ixzz2zaxp0U3W