Saturday, March 1, 2014

Attorneys are coming out swinging...

The recent downturn for Attorneys is well known in the legal ranks.  Corporations are cutting legal bills, law school enrollment is down, and offshoring is replacing legal jobs in the US.  On top of that, you have accountants, paralegals, and "self-help" legal websites taking a piece of the pie traditionally reserved for Attorneys.  So what are Attorneys doing?  They're coming out swinging.  HB 889 creates a new code section as follows:

Any person damaged by a violation of this article or a violation of the Supreme Court's rules or opinions governing the unlicensed practice of law shall be entitled to maintain a civil action to recover damages, reasonable attorney's fees, and expenses of litigation."

What does this mean really? One thing it means is that someone who pretends to be an attorney and does something wrong for a "client" can be sued by the client for damages.  It's possible that it means an Attorney can sue someone else for providing legal services to potential clients of the attorney.

Let's explore.  A young lady comes to my office in the hopes that I will draft a contract for her for some matter.  We discuss things and agree that she will pay $200 tomorrow for me to do the work.  Tomorrow comes, but she doesn't.  So being a diligent attorney and wanting to make sure I didn't misunderstand our conversation, I call the young lady up to find out why she missed her appointment.  I call and learn that the young lady as hired a "legal specialist" off craigslist to draft the contract for $100.

Do I, as an Attorney, have the right to sue the legal specialist?  I am a "person" that's been "damaged" by the legal specialist, so if we read the law literally, then I can sue. In fact, I think this law was drafted specifically so that I could bring the action and recover my damages.   But why?

There's too much unlicensed practice of law out there for the Bar to keep up.  I think this legislation is meant to provide a mechanism for private attorneys to weed out the UPL folks. What do you think?

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