This is a link out to the 2018 American Bar Association Model Guidelines for the Utilization of Paralegal Services. Below are a set of clarifications as to how our business model fits certain parts of the Guideline Rules which sometimes jump out as Guideline Rules which our business model does not follow. Thank you for reading through this page and the ABA Model Guidelines for the Utilization of Paralegal Services. A lot of the issues below overlap, so please forgive any redundancy.
Clarifications are ordered like this: Guideline # – Page # – Bullet Point # (w/in guideline not w/in page):
- Guideline 1 – Page 5 – Bullet Point 3: Lawyers must instruct paralegals on professional conduct rules and supervise paralegals consistent with the rules. From time to time people ask us how we are able to run a law service business with all paralegals and no attorneys who work for the business and say that we are supervised by attorneys. The issue is an organizational contract issue and a semantic issue combined together. We have a separate business entity than the Attorneys who supervise our work. The attorneys who supervise our work are our clients. We market to find people with legal matters who need to hire attorneys, we enter into a contract with the people who need attorneys and then the attorneys enter into the contract with the person who has a legal matter and we do the paralegal work that the attorney has us do. The attorneys review the work after we complete the tasks they instruct us to complete. We are an outsourced paralegal business, but we do only what our attorney clients direct us to do. Also, the fact that the attorneys are not always on site does not mean they are not supervising us, their simple review of our work is considered supervision.
- Guideline 2 – Page 6 – Bullet Point 3: Paralegals may not, however, engage in the unauthorized practice of law. This is a rather short explanation. Our business does not practice law. Only our attorney clients practice law. Apex Law Service does not give advice, and does not represent clients in legal matters, but only is, as the outsourced paralegal group, a part of the litigation team under the supervision of the attorney. We do only what we are asked to do by the attorney just like we would do if we individually or as a small group were direct employee paralegals inside of the law office of the attorney.
- Guideline 2 – Page 6 – Bullet Point 4: Generally Paralegals may not appear before adjudicative bodies. The only time this will seem like an issue is if an attorney client asks one of our experienced paralegals to handle a DMV APS Hearing. The Federal Administrative Procedures Act dictates that Administrative Agencies themselves have the authority to determine who can and cannot practice law in their administrative courts. The California DMV allows the paralegal of an attorney to handle a DMV Administrative Hearing Proceeding without the attorney present. Not all of our attorney clients ask us to handle the proceeding, but some do if we have a paralegal available. It is up to your attorney to advise you with respect to this matter and to instruct us accordingly to either prepare everything for the hearing or to also handle the hearing proceedings.
- Guideline 3 – Page 9 – Bullet Point 1: The lawyer must establish and maintain a relationship with the client to ensure that the client can effectively participate in the representation. From time to time we are asked whether Apex Law Service and not the attorney has established the attorney client relationship between the client with the legal matter and the attorney. We do not establish the relationship. What establishes the relationship is the signing into the contracts that have already been signed by the client with the legal matter by the attorney themselves. The attorney then has direct contact with the client and goes over any issues they need to go over with the client. That happens after the client with the legal matter decides to accept the attorney who has seen their case facts and wants to become their attorney. At first Apex Law Service is simply marketing and contracting with the client to do outsourced paralegal work for the client with the legal matter’s soon to be attorney and to show the client’s legal matter to several attorneys.
- Guideline 3 – Page 9 – Bullet Point 2: The lawyer must set fees, and discuss the basis for fees, directly with the client. The contract that the client with the legal matter signs when they come to Apex Law Service to be one of our clients simply has an agreed upon billing structure. It is a contract for $71.25 per hour paralegal hours on top of which the eventual attorney of record cannot charge money, a contract that the client with a legal matter offers to their soon to be attorney of record to hire the attorney to supervise Apex Law Service and to be their attorney at a rate of $350 per hour for attorney time and $300 per hour for associate attorney time. Apex Law Service does not intake any checks or cash into their bank accounts on behalf of the attorney. Apex Law Service will physically hand a $1000 deposit check for the $1000 deposit on the $3000 retainer check as indicated in the contract. This does not constitute the setting of fees. The contract itself says that the $3000 retainer may not cover all legal expenses and is simply an original retainer. The attorney themselves in a direct conversation with the client who has the legal matter will explain how many attorney hours it will take to handle their case and how many paralegal hours they will instruct Apex Law Service to complete based on an estimate according to the tasks required.
- Guideline 3 – Page 9 – Bullet Point 3: Paralegals may communicate directly with the client, so long as they do not interpret or expand upon the attorney’s legal advice. There are so many tasks to take care of in a law case. If it were not allowable for a paralegal to call a client to ask them to send in a document or a picture of a document or to ask a question about a bit of information and/or data, a law case would be way to expensive for most anybody to fight. This is a basic function of a paralegal, but we are covering it here to explain that the paralegals who work at Apex Law Service will not themselves cross the line into giving legal advice, and will only give basic clarifications as to the meaning of the wording of the attorney’s advice. Apex Law Service paralegals will relay any legal advice question to the attorney so that the attorney can briefly prep an answer, and then properly communicate with the client so that there are no misunderstandings. Working in this fashion is the most efficient way of doing business and it saves the client money. The client with the legal matter always has the right to call their attorney directly about any issue whatsoever.
- Guideline 7: A lawyer should take reasonable measures to prevent conflicts of interest resulting from a paralegal’s other employment or interests. Given the nature of criminal law cases, it is very rare that Apex Law Service itself will have to deal with a conflict of interest issue.
- Guideline 8: A lawyer may include a charge for the work performed by a paralegal in setting a charge and/or billing for legal services. Though it is legal for an attorney to charge a client with a legal matter more for paralegal hours than the amount they pay the paralegal, the attorney clients of Apex Law Service agree not to take a profit from the paralegal hours worked by Apex Law Service. This is our whole business is passing on savings to our clients with legal matters. This is where the savings comes from. Apex Law Service has an agreement with it’s attorney clients and entering into this agreement is the consideration which functions as the bargained for exchange for the marketing that Apex Law Service does to find clients with legal matters. This agreement can be found on the Apex’s Documents page and a link to this page is found at the top of every page on this website.
- Guideline 9 – Page 20 – Bullet Point 3: Paralegals may never be paid, directly or indirectly, for referring clients or legal work to the attorney. There is a difference between a marketing fee and a referral fee. Apex Law Service does not even charge a marketing fee to their attorney clients. A marketing fee is allowed and a referral fee is not. No amount of money can be paid to a business like Apex Law Service that is determined based on a percentage of the fees an attorney plans on charging and/or actually charges in connection with a referred legal matter taken under contract. Apex Law Service has an agreement with it’s attorney clients and entering into this agreement is the consideration which functions as the bargained for exchange for the marketing that Apex Law Service does to find clients with legal matters. This agreement can be found on the Apex’s Documents page and a link to this page is found at the top of every page on this website.
- Guideline 10: A lawyer who employs a paralegal should facilitate the paralegal’s participation in appropriate continuing education and pro bono publico activities. Given the outsourced nature of Apex Law Service, we make sure to uphold Guideline 10 by always inviting our attorney clients to go to the Mandatory Continuing Legal Education Events that our Paralegals are attending. We find that most of our client attorneys end up completing at least one of their MCLE events along with us because both Paralegals and Attorneys are required by the California State Bar to complete the very same MCLE courses. Attorney and Paralegal MCLE courses are the same, paralegals are required to complete 15 units yearly and attorneys are required to complete 25 units yearly. Apex Law Service is one of the driving businesses behind “the All in Service Network” www.allinservice.org, which is a project helping religious and non-religious groups to coordinate a community service project for kids on juvenile probation. This is Apex Law Service’s main pro bono activity and many of our attorney client’s end up taking pro bono cases from this network and Apex Law Service ends up doing some of the paralegal work.