|Justice Hardesty cautions non-attorneys about the unauthorized practice of law|
|Wednesday, 30 May 2012 14:04|
Thirty-two paralegals and legal assistants have been given a crash course on Supreme Court procedures and a lecture by Supreme Court Justice James W. Hardesty on avoiding the ethical and legal pitfalls faced by non-attorneys.
The members of the Sierra Nevada Association of Paralegals (SNAP) and the Legal Assistants Division of the State Bar of Nevada began the day on May 18 by attending Supreme Court oral arguments in Carson City before hearing from Justice Hardesty.
That was followed by a presentation at the Supreme Court Law Library by Librarian Christine Timko.
“Paralegals and legal assistants are important members of the legal community and serve vital functions in today’s law offices,” said Chief Justice Michael Cherry. “But there are limitations on what non-lawyers can and should do.”
“Members of the public with legal disputes have a right to be represented by attorneys who are licensed in the State of Nevada,” Justice Hardesty said. “While non-attorneys can provide great assistance, they cannot give legal advice or engage in the unauthorized practice of law.”
Justice Hardesty noted that 10 Canons of Ethics were adopted by the State Bar of Nevada in 1994 governing legal assistants and there is also a Legal Assistants Pledge of Professionalism.
He also pointed out that non-lawyers employed by attorneys must adhere to the ethics rules for attorneys and cannot do things that attorneys may not do.
Under Nevada statutes, the unauthorized practice of law is a crime. It is punishable as a misdemeanor for a first offense, as a gross misdemeanor for a second offense, and as a felony for three or more offenses within seven years.
Violators may also face civil action for an injunction brought by the State Bar of Nevada.
Justice Hardesty reviewed Supreme Court rulings on the unauthorized practice of law and discussed hypothetical situations to help the attendees understand their obligations.