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Let me rephrase that: I fucking hate attorneys.
While this may seem to be more of the same OGL talk that I’ve been spewing the past couple of weeks, it isn’t.
There’s a batch of attorneys that are always grandstanding or otherwise making things difficult just because they can. Here’s the latest tactic. They regularly accuse my non-attorney coworkers as practicing law without a license. This is otherwise known as the unauthorized practice of law, which has a hand abbreviation that I’ll use here: UPL.
First off, what’s UPL? Every state is different, yet there all the same, so I’ll give you Virginia’s definition care of the Rules of the Supreme Court of Virginia Part 6, § I(2):
A person or entity engages in the practice of law when representing to another, by words or conduct, that one is authorized to do any of the following:
A. Undertake for compensation, direct or indirect, to give advice or counsel to an entity or person in any matter involving the application of legal principles to facts.
B. Select, draft or complete legal documents or agreements which affect the legal rights of an entity or person.
C. Represent another entity or person before a tribunal.
D. Negotiate the legal rights or responsibilities on behalf of another entity or person.
B is easy. If you aren’t dealing with legal documents in some way, you aren’t practicing law. C is also easy. If you aren’t communicating with a court on behalf of another person, you aren’t practicing law. D is also easy. If you aren’t negotiating on behalf of another person, then you aren’t practicing law.
A is where a lot of people get tripped up, so I want to repeat what I’ve said many times before so that these attorneys can’t pull this shit on you one day. Here’s a simple way of explaining this: If I tell you the speed limit is 55 miles per hour, I’m not practicing law. If I tell you you’re speeding, I’m practicing law. What’s the difference? The first statement is saying what the law is. “Thou shalt not drive faster than 55 miles per hour.” Non-attorneys can point out the law to you without engaging in UPL. The second statement, however, involves the “application of legal principles to facts.” That is, I’m taking your specific facts — the fact that you’re driving, let’s say, 65 miles per hour — and applying the law to those facts. Then I’m drawing a legal conclusion about your behavior. If a non-attorney does that, it’s UPL.
Put yet another way, telling you what the law is isn’t UPL, but telling you that you’re breaking the law can be UPL.
Here’s the latest bit of nonsense I’ve had to endure. My processor requested that the attorney underline or capitalize the last names of the parties on a deed. When the attorney tried to be difficult and refused for no good reason, she pointed out that, “the Clerk of the Court has the right to reject deeds if the last names of the parties aren’t either underlined or capitalized.” All she was doing was paraphrasing the law and making a request. She never made any statement saying anyone was going to jail or open to a lawsuit, so she wasn’t applying that law to any facts. A particular attorney called this UPL, claiming she was preparing, revising, or modifying legal documents even while admitting that her statement was merely a “request.” This was nothing more than a scare tactic to scare her into silence and stroke his own fragile ego.
As you can tell, I believe whole-heartedly that these attorneys aren’t getting tripped up. They, in fact, know better; they just know that non-attorneys don’t know better, so they’re abusing their position as attorneys by misleading people into thinking they’ve committed a fucking crime, then leveraging that lie for some personal benefit. These attorneys are garbage. The reason why we’re dealing with this — even over minor issues — is because of the broader issue I’ve already discussed here, here, and here. In short, the Virginia State Bar refuses to address the widespread and long-standing unethical and illegal behavior of attorneys in the Virginia real estate industry, and the legislature is too busy to do anything about it, so these attorneys effectively have immunity for their bad behavior. Despite no one willing to step forward and do the right thing, these attorneys still continue to scare title companies into allowing the malfeasance. What can you do if the relevant authorities don’t care? This is why people hate attorneys and why they absolutely should.
But not me. You should like me. I’m cool.
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