The below text is taken from the above address … As one can see by reading it, as Professor George Leef put it, “nothing much new under the sun. This is reminiscent of the attempt back in 1995-6 of the Virginia Bar Association to have the state supreme court declare that the practice of law includes real estate settlements, thus wiping out non-lawyer competition. The New Jersey tried the same thing a few years before that. Lawyers just hate allowing anyone who isn't part of their guild to have a share of "their" business.”
In 1985, the Arizona state law was amended to allow non-lawyers to prepare and process legal documents. This change did not allow non-lawyers to represent Arizona citizens in court or otherwise practice law, however it did allow non-lawyers to prepare and process legal documents. The Arizona Bar Association has since made several attempts through the legislature to regain their monopoly. All of these legislative efforts have been
unsuccessful and our legislature has said repeatedly, "absolutely not!"
On April 30, 2002, the Arizona Bar Association petitioned the Arizona Supreme Court for a rule change that will impact the rights of every Arizonan. THIS RULE CHANGE WOULD TAKE AWAY YOUR RIGHT TO CHOOSE WHO PREPARES YOUR SIMPLE LEGAL DOCUMENTS!
Specifically, the requested rule change states:
"Definition: Practice of Law. The "practice of law" means providing legal advice or services to or for another by:
A. PREPARING ANY DOCUMENT IN ANY MEDIUM INTENDED TO AFFECT OR SECURE LEGAL RIGHTS FOR A SPECIFIC PERSON OR ENTITY:
B. Preparing or expressing legal opinions;
C. Representing another in a judicial, quasi-judicial, or administrative proceeding, or other formal dispute resolution process such as arbitrations and mediations;
D. PREPARING ANY DOCUMENT THROUGH ANY MEDIUM FOR FILING IN ANY COURT, ADMINISTRATIVE AGENCY OR TRIBUNAL FOR A SPECIFIC PERSON OR ENTITY; or
E. Negotiating legal rights or responsibilities for a specific person or entity.
Translated, this means YOU CANNOT HIRE SOMEONE WHO IS NOT AN ATTORNEY TO PREPARE LEGAL DOCUMENTS, PERIOD!
The petition submitted by the Arizona Bar Association says they are requesting this rule change "to protect consumers of legal services from harm caused by those who engage in the unauthorized practice of law." (Petition to Amend, Rule 31, Arizona Rules of the Supreme Court and TO ADD Rule 32 and Rules 76 through 80, Arizona Rules of the Supreme Court)
The Arizona Association of Independent Paralegals (AAIP) disagrees with the Bar Association on what constitutes "practice of law" and "unauthorized practice of law." The AAIP contends that merely gathering information and preparing documents with that information DOES NOT constitute the practice of law. The AAIP also contends that disseminating information otherwise readily available to the public, i.e., filing fees and
operational procedures, DOES NOT constitute the practice of law.
Quoting a Capitol Media Services news story by Howard Fischer, dated May 1, 2002, "He (Judge Van Wyck) said these operations would not run afoul of the regulations if they confined themselves to simply providing forms and helping people fill them out." (Arizona Daily Star, May 1, 2002)
However, the petition and requested rule change filed April 30, 2002 contradicts this statement by its own committee chairman, Judge Robert Van Wyck. Despite what Judge Van Wyck says, this measure would eliminate even those document preparers whom he claims would be able to continue to operate, since "PREPARING ANY DOCUMENT IN ANY MEDIUM INTENDED TO AFFECT OR SECURE LEGAL RIGHTS FOR A SPECIFIC PERSON OR ENTITY" would be an illegal act for any non-attorney!
Further, a 1999 study conducted for the Arizona State Bar and submitted by the same Coconino County Superior Court Judge Robert Van Wyck, states in part "There is a need for low-cost legal services that is not being met by the Bar."
In the Bar's petition to change the rules, the Bar Association claims that they received four hundred complaints in 2001, claiming harm by non-lawyers. The Bar Association has not released these complaints for public review, so it is unclear how many of these complaints are legitimate, and how many are unfounded. What is clear is that the Bar routinely tells consumers inquiring about independent paralegals and document preparers that the
business in question is breaking the law, and is under investigation by the state Bar. They then solicit written complaints from those consumers, many of whom had no complaint prior to being told by the Bar that they had been victimized. The Arizona Bar also has been asking it's members to report all cases of (what they call) "UPL," so it is also believed that many of the alleged complaints were made by lawyers, not consumers. It
should also be pointed out that in that same time frame we provided non-lawyer services to tens of thousands of satisfied customers in Arizona.
According to the Arizona Bar, "UPL" not only includes independent paralegals and document preparers, but also includes disbarred attorneys, "notarios," estate planners, mediators, and public adjusters.
In January, 2002, the AAIP compiled a database of all business listed in the Phoenix Metro Yellow Pages under "Divorce" and "Paralegals." We then ran Better Business Bureau reports all of these businesses and found only four that had derogatory BBB reports. Two of those listings were disbarred lawyers and one was a practicing lawyer who was advertising that he was a "paralegal service." The Bar Association has since censured
that lawyer. Additionally, neither the Better Business Bureau nor the Attorney General's office rates independent paralegals as an industry warranting a fraud watch by consumers.
Compare this with the thousands of complaints against Bar Association members reported each year. Although the exact figures have been "unavailable to the public" since 1995, the figures before that time are interesting.
In a February 1994 issue of "Arizona Attorney," Chief Bar Counsel Harriet Turney quotes figures from 1992, in which 2201 complaints against Arizona attorneys were referred to the state Bar Association. These complaints are screened by other attorneys, who then decide the course of action. To quote Ms. Turney from the article "In 1992, of the 2201 referral(s) received, only 985 were investigated. The remaining matters were either
dismissed outright or were referred to other bar programs" (Arizona Attorney, February 1994). Ms. Turney also says in this article that the most common recommendation was dismissal (of the complaint.)
In 2001, there were 122 attorneys in Arizona who were suspended, censured, reprimanded, or disbarred, based on information available on the Bar's web site. This does not include the number of complaints received overall, or the number of complaints that FELLOW ATTORNEYS decided were unfounded. This also does not include any information on the Bar's diversion program, whereby many "first offenders" are placed in a
probationary status for a short period of time, after which their record (and the Bar's complaint record) is "wiped clean," as if it never happened.
So what's this really all about? According to Maricopa County Superior Court, there were 17,147 divorces filed in the fiscal year ending 6/30/01. AAIP estimates that only 10% of those cases were filed by attorneys and between 70% and 75% of those divorce cases were prepared by independent paralegals. Approval of the rules change by the Supreme Court would mean thousands of new cases and millions of dollars in additional business for attorneys.
***NEWS ALERT*** YOUR RIGHTS ARE IN JEOPARDY!
YOU will have only two choices: either hire an expensive attorney, or try to muddle through the often-overwhelming documents yourself. YOU may decide you can't afford to deal with your legal matter (divorce, bankruptcy, living trust, will, etc.), leaving yourself and your family vulnerable to the consequences of this inaction. YOU will lose your direct access to the court system – a system that was designed BY THE PEOPLE, FOR THE PEOPLE. YOU WILL LOSE ONE OF YOUR MOST IMPORTANT RIGHTS AS A CITIZEN: THE RIGHT TO HANDLE YOUR OWN LEGAL MATTERS HOW YOU CHOOSE.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
The Arizona Association of Independent Paralegals is urging all Arizonans to let their voices be heard.
1.Write a letter to the Supreme Court Justices, telling them you want to make your own decisions about who prepares your legal documents.
2.Call your lawmakers, letting them know you don't like this sneaky effort by the Arizona Bar Association to make new laws.
3.Write letters to the local newspaper editors. Tell your friends. GET THE WORD OUT!
4.Please complete our poll
THE ARIZONA BAR LAWYERS DON'T OWN THE LAW!
LET ARIZONANS MAKE THEIR OWN CHOICES!