Unauthorized Practice of Law
Facts: Mr. Stan Smith calls his friend, Polly Paralegal, and leaves a message asking, “Do the grounds for divorce in North Carolina include adultery?” Later that day, Mrs. Stan Smith calls Polly Paralegal and leaves a message asking, “Do I have grounds for divorce in North Carolina? I just found out that Stan committed adultery.”
QUESTION 1: If Polly Paralegal answers Mr. Smith’s question, will she have engaged in the unauthorized practice of law? Explain and support your answer with information from at least one authoritative reference source. Historically, the courts of most jurisdictions seem to generally agree that paralegals may not: a. Give legal advice;
e. Plan strategy;
f. Make legal decisions; or
g. Chart directions of a case
The National Association of Legal Assistant (NALA) Code of Ethics and Professional Responsibility: Canon 3: A legal assistant must not (a) engage in, encourage, or contribute to any act which could constitute the unauthorized practice of law; and (b) establish attorney-client relationships, set fees, give legal opinions or advice or represent a client before a court or agency unless so authorized by that court or agency; and (c) engage in conduct or take any action which would assist or involve the attorney in a violation of professional ethics or give the appearance of professional impropriety; Canon 4: A legal assistant must use discretion and professional judgment commensurate with knowledge and experience but must not render independent legal judgment in place of an attorney. The services of an attorney are essential in the public interest whenever such legal judgment is required. Canon 5: A legal assistant must disclose his or her status as a legal assistant at the outset of any professional relationship with a client, attorney, a court or administrative agency or personnel thereof, or a member of the general public. A legal assistant must act prudently in determining the extent to...
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