Sunday, August 10, 2008

"Everytown Paralegal" Strikes Again!

In a previous article, I related a story concerning rogue paralegals who operate outside the parameters of statutory regulations. I dubbed one such violator "Everytown Paralegal" as this type of operation could be in any city, anywhere. Unfortunately, this article relates to the very same Everytown that I spoke of previously. Alas, once again, Everytown has hit my desk with a loud, disconcerting thud.

Joe Client came in asking for help with filing a small claims matter. He provided a copy of his claim to me and as we were talking he stated that he had paid $450 to a paralegal to prepare the document. I thought I misunderstood him and thought also that perhaps he was overstating the amount paid as some might be apt to do. When I asked him what he paid and whether or not he entered into a written contract, he replied that nothing was signed, he did not receive a receipt, and that he paid $450 for the document to be prepared.

Further scrutiny of the documents showed that the claim was being made due to a returned "insufficient funds" check in the amount of $4,000.00. I studied the claim form in an attempt to locate the necessary LDA information and, finding no identifying information, I asked him the name of the service and as he mumbled the paralegal's name and the name of the service, Everytown Paralegal. I instantly began to feel sympathy toward him and I began to turn RED – another person had been conned by a rogue document preparer who illegally uses the title "Paralegal."

I asked what processes the rogue had accomplished in an effort to prepare his paperwork. He said that she just sat down and typed the claim out and he paid her and was on his way with the documents. He said he tried to file the documents, but was sent to another location and that it was closed when he arrived. He returned the next day and was told to return with his checkbook because he was not aware he had to pay a filing fee and had not brought money (I never said he was the brightest guy). So, here he is in my office, frustrated and confused.

I am completely blown away that he has paid so much for so little. I am completely blown away that the rogue did not act to have him follow the processes concerning notice for statutory damages on a returned check. I am even more blown away, and still gasping for air, over the fact the rogue charged $450 for preparation of a small claims matter. I provided him with the resource to the California Courts Self Help website and showed him how to access the information. We printed out the sample notice letter and instructions and he left to try to regroup and take another stab at making a claim.

These rogues are the people who give legitimate legal document assistants and paralegals a bad name. Consumers have to become better educated and better aware of the differences between legitimate non-attorney legal service providers and rogue operators (Hello--Craigslist). We need to step it up and figure out ways to better improve our profession. We must if we wish to continue to enrich ourselves operating a legal document preparation business. If our profession suffers negative press and opinions, we will all end up selling our services at bargain basement prices to untrusting, disrespectful and wary (translated – paranoid) consumer clients. This would not be a pretty picture.

1 comment:

Chazaqah Atlas said...

Thanks for the information. I am a new Student in the Paralegal Studies Program @ ULV. I am so excited about my education in this field. However, I have heard of some terrible misfortunes. I agree, we must be better at practicing and protecting our profession (investment). I never realized a scam of the nature was so seemingly easy. Since my education takes me through such a stringent course of study.