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Memphis, Tennessee, United States
Small town paralegal in the city. Once ran a law office, now being run by one. Med mal defense litigation. I think it's growing on me.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Legal Aid and Paralegals

As a young paralegal still feeling out the ethics, for a long time I did not understand the difference between legal information and legal advice. I believed that everything was legal advice, and that even the simplest procedural questions with the most concrete and consistent answers that had nothing to do with an individual situation had to be passed to the Boss. I did this out of a wariness and fear of inadvertently crossing into the no-man's-land of UPL.

As I have grown and developed as a paralegal, I have learned better ways to gauge where the line is. I've gathered examples of questions that can be answered without hassling the Boss. "What is a summary judgement?" "How long does a defendant have to file an answer after she has been served in small claims court?" "Where is your bathroom?"

However,, a local Oklahoma news source, is reporting that a Legal Aid Services paralegal will be meeting Thursday with Garfield County, OK seniors "who need information on a legal matter or have questions."

Jerry Clay, the paralegal speaking at the forum, is quoted as saying, "Many seniors and those with hearing impairments, prefer to discuss their problems in person, and meeting at NODA makes it easier to review legal documents."

While I am sure there is a way to hold such a forum without giving actual legal advice, it sounds like quite the challenge. In fact, reviewing legal documents with someone sounds exactly like providing legal counsel, unless the review is only for editing purposes. Or I suppose, unless the paralegal is gathering issues together to consult with an attorney before relaying any advice back to the seniors. The article, unfortunately, does not go any further in describing the services being rendered.

I do not know Oklahoma's UPL laws, but I have noticed in my personal research that in at least a few states, Legal Aid paralegals provide lawyer-type services to individuals without direct supervision or client contact by a licensed attorney. Oklahoma may be one of these states. Or perhaps it isn't, and the legal doc review and discussion of legal problems described in the article does not constitute the practice of law in Oklahoma. Whichever the case, I find the assistance described in the article to be a wonderful thing.


  1. Do you think UPL is constitutional? Read my blog, I have a whole series on UPL.