Phoenix—Seeking to strengthen its monopoly power, the State Bar of Arizona this week is asking the Arizona Supreme Court to completely prohibit the operation of scores of independent paralegals and document preparers. The Institute for Justice, the nation’s leading legal advocate for economic liberty, through its Arizona Chapter, has officially asked the Arizona Supreme Court to reject the bar’s proposed rules.
?By destroying competition from qualified independent paralegals, the legal cartel would give attorneys free rein to set their fees beyond the reach of many consumers,? declared Timothy Keller, a staff attorney at the Institute for Justice.
The proposed rules were drafted by the State Bar’s Consumer Protection Committee and seek to adopt a broad definition of the “practice of law” to include “preparing any document in any medium intended to affect or secure legal rights for a specific person or entity.” The State Bar contends that only lawyers, or paralegals supervised by lawyers, are capable of preparing routine legal documents such as those required to form a corporation.
“Far from protecting consumers, these rules would deny thousands of people access to Arizona’s courts and send skyrocketing the cost of routine legal transactions,” Keller said.
The rules would force more than 200 legitimate businesses to shut down and leave thousands of Arizonans without any choice but to hire a lawyer or prepare their legal papers themselves. The State Bar admits it is not prepared to meet the demand of those currently being served by document preparers, many of whom have a decade or more of experience and an excellent record of providing affordable, timely and competent service.
“There are thousands of Arizonans who cannot afford to hire an attorney,” according to Keller. “They deserve to have the option of hiring experienced paralegals to help them prepare the numerous documents required to be filed in today’s complex legal system.”