News

LegalZoom Hits Hurdle in North Carolina

LegalZoom was probably still celebrating the South Carolina Supreme Court’s approval of its business model when a North Carolina judge breathed continued life into a case claiming the company engages in the unauthorized practice of law, reports LawSites Blog. According to the post, a special judge dismissed two counts in LegalZoom’s lawsuit against the North Carolina State Bar, in which the company alleged that the bar’s efforts to shut it down violated anti-monopoly and equal protection clauses of the state constitution. The court deferred ruling on the bar’s claim that LegalZoom is engaged in unauthorized practice, concluding that a more extensive factual record is required to understand how LegalZoom prepares complex documents for customers.

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S.C. Court Rejects UPL Claim Against LegalZoom

The South Carolina Supreme Court has approved LegalZoom’s business practices on the basis that they mirror other self-help services offered by various state and local agencies, the ABA Journal reports. The court found that since documents offered by the company do not provide legal advice, and since the company itself does not provide legal assistance in the creation of the documents, it is not engaged in the unauthorized practice of law. The company operates in all 50 states and has faced claims of unauthorized practice of law elsewhere. It is currently fighting a challenge in North Carolina.

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April Issue Covers UPL, Postjudgment Interest and Sex Week

"Protecting the legal profession is only our secondary goal," Tennessee Bar Association President Cindy Wyrick writes in her Journal column this month where she takes on the war against unauthorized practice of law. "We are fighting this battle primarily to protect the public."  Also in this issue, the second-to-last column written by the late Don Paine is about postjudgment interest, and Bill Haltom writes what's on many Volunteers' minds about the legislature, Sex Week and free speech at UT.

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Waging War Against the Unauthorized Practice of Law

While it has not been officially declared as one by Congress, and may not be the headline in your local newspaper, you should know that our profession is at war. Before you run for cover or head to your local recruiting office, I should mention that this war is being waged against a different type of “enemy” — one that does not want to engage us in battle directly but instead tries to elude detection.

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Man Accused of Pretending to be an Attorney

A Nashville couple had no doubt that they were working with a real attorney when they hired Greg Pillow to handle a medical malpractice suit, but suspicion arose when he called saying the case was settled. A look into Pillow’s past found a lengthy criminal history including a 2008 conviction of pretending to be an EMT and accusations of posing as a fire fighter. The State Board of Professional Responsibility has no record of Pillow having a law license and the office address he gave clients is invalid. Although he did not take any money for services, the couple says his scam caused “plenty of frustration.” Pillow did not respond to Fox 17’s phone calls for comment.

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Free Domestic Violence Training for Lawyers, Advocates

The Tennessee Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence is offering a statewide legal advocacy training session Sept. 6 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Tennessee Health Management in Antioch. Robin Kimbrough, legal counsel for the group, will conduct the training for lawyers and advocates. Topics will include the basics of civil and criminal law in cases of domestic and sexual violence, the role of advocates and attorneys, tips on avoiding the unauthorized practice of law, and benefits for immigrant victims of domestic and dating violence, sexual assault, stalking and trafficking. The training is free but reservations are requested. Learn more or register here.

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Nashville ‘Notario Publico’ Shut Down

For 17 years, Martha Salazar operated a business in South Nashville where thousands of Hispanics had immigration papers and other legal documents prepared. This week, Davidson County Judge Amanda McClendon ordered that Salazar pay back customers, pay $4,000 in attorney’s fees and pay $6,000 in civil penalties. So-called “notarios publico” provide low-cost legal assistance, often in immigrant communities. But according to state law, they must post that their services are not provided by a licensed attorney. State officials are asking consumers who have used Salazar’s services to contact the attorney general’s office at (615) 741-1671. Claims for reimbursements must be filed within the next six months. The Tennessean has more

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ABA Ethics Panel Seeks Comments on UPL Issue

While finalizing resolutions to be presented to the American Bar Association (ABA) House of Delegates in August, the ABA Commission on Ethics 20/20 continues to grapple with the issue of how technology impacts the unauthorized practice of law. The panel is seeking input about how technology, which now allows lawyers to practice in a jurisdiction without physically being present, affects Rule 5.5 of the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct. Download a white paper on the issue or read more in the ABA Journal. Comments should be submitted to Natalie Vera at natalia.vera@americanbar.org no later than July 31. 

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Disbarred Attorney Ordered to Pay Restitution

Davidson County Circuit Court Judge Joseph Binkley Jr. has ordered former Nashville attorney Michael H. Sneed to pay more than $18,000 in restitution to clients he represented while suspended and disbarred. Binkley also set of deadline of July 6 for affected clients to seek reimbursement. Sneed was suspended in February 2009 and then disbarred in early 2010. For approximately 18 months during that time he continued to represent clients. Binkley also directed Sneed to pay the state $154,000 in civil penalties.

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Dealing With the Unauthorized Practice of Law in Tennessee

How does the Unauthorized Practice of Law Committee work with attorneys and the public in protecting consumers from the unauthorized practice of law? Former Committee Chair Sean Lewis provides the answers.

State Files UPL Suit in Consumer Protection Effort

The state has filed suit against a woman alleged to be engaging in legal services without a license, Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper and Commerce and Insurance Division of Consumer Affairs Director Gary Cordell announced today. Martha Salazar, doing business as Comunidad Hispana on Nolensville Road in Nashville, is named in the lawsuit, alleging she is providing legal services without being licensed as an attorney.

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