STATE BAR SHUTS DOWN ILLEGAL LAW PRACTICE AT LOS ANGELES DOCUMENT PREPARATION SERVICE
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San Francisco, April 16, 2009 — The State Bar yesterday shut down the part of a Los Angeles document preparation service that offered legal services by non-lawyers.
Applying a state law aimed at stemming the unauthorized practice of law, the bar obtained an order from Los Angeles County Superior Court on Wednesday assuming jurisdiction over an office that billed itself as having "experts" able to offer and provide legal advice.
The office, which was known by various names, including Centro Familiar and Coalition of Families for Justice, was operated by Paul Hernandez, a legal document assistant. Hernandez and his employees were ordered to cease and desist from practicing law or holding themselves out as being entitled to provide legal services.
Prosecutors in the State Bar's Office of Chief Trial Counsel said advertisements in flyers distributed by Hernandez's agents strongly suggested legal expertise by using such phrases as "experts," "help in the law," "modification (specialists)," and "assistance in all types of family issues." Once in the door, clients were offered legal advice on their problems.
Business and Professions Code, section 6126.3 gives authority to a superior court, on its own motion or upon application of the State Bar, to assume jurisdiction of the “practice” of a person who is not a lawyer.
Assumption of a law practice by a Superior Court under §6126.3 is based upon the court finding that a person has engaged in the practice of law without being an active member of the State Bar or otherwise authorized to practice in California and that the interest of a client or interested person or entity will be prejudiced if the court does not assume jurisdiction.
Founded in 1927 by the state legislature, The State Bar of California is an administrative arm of the California Supreme Court, serving the public and seeking to improve the justice system for more than 80 years. All lawyers practicing law in California must be members of the State Bar. In April 2009, membership reached more than 222,000.