Signing Up Clients: Use of Paralegal Could be UPL

November 2, 2010

In July 2010, the State Bar adopted “Guidelines for Use of Paralegals in Rendering Legal Services.” These guidelines prohibit paralegals from engaging in the practice of law and lawyers from assisting in such practice. Specifically, Guideline 2 states that “a lawyer may not delegate the following responsibilities or activities to a paralegal: establishing a client-lawyer relationship and the terms of the relationship; giving oral or written legal advice or a legal opinion to a client; interpretation of legal documents for a client[.]” If you are using paralegals exclusively to sign up clients, you may need rethink your business model. I believe this guideline requres that a lawyer must be inserted somewhere in the process prior to signing up a client. It need not be a face-to-face meeting, but the lawyer must have some communication with the client prior to the client signing the engagement agreement. The State Bar appears to be taking the position that a legal judgment is involved in the decision whether to provide representation to a client and that such decision cannot be delegated to a paralegal. Although the paralegal can oversee the signing of the engagement agreement, a lawyer should be available should the client have any legal questions. See www.nccertifiedparalegal.gov/guidelines.asp

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