Missouri is one of several states that recently issued cease-and-desist orders against a man who operated a business proffering legal services. The man operated a business under several names, including 3rd Millennium Systems, Inc., Affordable Law Center and Affordable Court Services.
He ran into trouble when it became apparent that, despite the name of his business, he was not actually a lawyer, nor did his businesses employ an attorney. The man offered “legal plans” for bankruptcy, divorce and DWI, for which he charged a flat fee. Despite the fact that he was not an attorney, he used words like “legal,” “law,” “court” and “attorney freely in his business and advertising.
In the course of his business, he helped his customers fill out forms, gave them advice, referred them to attorneys for an additional fee and contracted the typing of forms to a typist in another state. He did not sign any forms for bankruptcy filings he facilitated. Perhaps in an effort to protect himself, he had his clients sign forms saying that he did mislead them or give them legal advice.
A U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge recently issued a ruling against the man, barring him from continuing his activities in yet another state. He was ordered to repay fees paid by 18 former clients and to give each client $2,000 in damages.
Each state has its own rules about how legal services can be classified and advertised. These rules are meant to ensure that the public is informed of their rights, responsibilities and options when choosing legal counsel.
If you are in a situation where you need legal representation, do your homework to ensure that the attorney or representative you choose has the qualifications to give your case the experience and attention it deserves.
Source: The Star Tribune, “Lawyerless legal business told to cease and desist,” Jane Friedmann, April 22, 2013