This article highlights some recent cases involving paralegals.
Court Finds Unauthorized Practice of Law for Paralegal Work
In re Hrones, 457 Mass. 844, 933 N.E.2d 622 (Mass. 2010)
On September 10, 2010, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts held that actions of a law school graduate, who had not passed the bar examination but who was employed as a paralegal at attorney’s law firm, constituted the practice of law. The Court affirmed that a suspension for one year and one day was an appropriate disciplinary sanction for the attorney.
Attorney Fees Awarded for Paralegal Work
Gore v. Gore, 2010 WL 3292442 (Ohio Ct. App. Aug. 20, 2010)
On August 20, 2010, the Court of Appeals of Ohio held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by ordering husband to pay wife’s attorney fees. The court affirmed attorney fees for the wife’s attorney, which totaled $19,638.00. The court held that the fees were reasonable in divorce action because the wife’s attorney had practiced law in the area for 40 years, he was a recognized expert in family law, the case was complex due to the five parcels of real property, the attorney used paralegals to organize exhibits and assist at trial in order to effectively litigate the case, and the hours billed by attorney for his time and that of his paralegal were reasonable and necessary.
Bankruptcy Fraud Conviction of Attorney Using Paralegal’s Services Upheld
U.S. v. Holstein, — F.3d —-, 2010 WL 3239391 (7th Cir. Aug. 18, 2010)
On August 18, 2010, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit upheld the conviction of a bankruptcy attorney for nine counts of bankruptcy fraud and making false statements in bankruptcy petitions. Lisa Vega, a paralegal that worked for the attorney, testified that the attorney directed her to accept fees from the clients and file the bankruptcy petitions on their behalf. In addition, Vega said the attorney directed her to black out his name on the petitions and indicate that the clients were not represented by counsel and would proceed pro se. The petitions therefore represented to the court that the clients paid no legal fees.
Kansas Attorney Disbarred for Doing Work of Paralegal Without Supervision
In re Miller, 238 P.3d 227 (Kan. 2010)
On August 13, 2010, the Kansas Supreme Court affirmed the disbarment of a Kansas attorney who engaged in the unauthorized practice of law during disciplinary suspension by hiring an independent contractor to do legal work that attorney was precluded from doing because of his suspension. The court held that “[a] suspended attorney cannot function independently as a law clerk or paralegal; he or she must work for and be supervised by a licensed attorney who is ultimately responsible for the paralegal work.”