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The FALDP Docket -- Florida Association of Legal Document Preparers Monthly Newsletter
November 16, 2011

Florida Association of Legal Document Preparers

The FALDP Docket

Volume 2; Issue 11
November, 2011


SECOND UPL SUMMIT 2011

Webinar This Saturday 11:00 a.m. EST

Invitations have gone out to members and friends. And the press release has been issued. If you are an FALDP member and have not received your Webinar invitation (after checking your spam filter), please contact us and we will resend. Reminders will also be sent on Friday, the day before the Webinar; and again on Saturday morning one hour before the Webinar.

Florida legal document preparers must be FALDP members to attend. Legal document assistants from other states are invited to attend as guests. There is no charge for this Webinar.


Online Courses


An Introductory course - Introduction to Florida Legal Document Preparation for preparing family law documents in Florida, and Preparing Florida Divorce Documents are open for registration.

Bankruptcy Chapter 7 Petition Preparation
Our Bankruptcy Petition Preparation - Chapter 7 online course is set to be released in January.

The online courses are designed for document preparers who are either new to the industry; or for document preparers who want to expand to other focus areas.

We are working on the instructional design for the bankruptcy petition preparer's course, and the family law courses. There will be a total of six courses available.

Registration is open for the Intro course, and the Divorce course. The courses are geared toward legal document preparers who are new to the industry; new to Florida; or legal document preparers who want to expand their knowledge base. For LDP's new to the industry, or new to Florida, the Intro course is a requirement and a prerequisite for enrollment in the Dissolution of Marriage course.


Readability v Legalese. Entries should be 1-3 sentences. I won't limit the number of words, because I'm curious about how many words might possibly fit into three sentences.

Entries should be in American English, no UK or Aussie English allowed. Entries should have been written no more than 50 years ago, around 1960 or more recently. (Before that, they just couldn't help themselves, after that, they should know better). Cite a source. No need to go crazy with APA, MLA, Chicago, Blue Book or any other citation method, just send me the url so that I can check to make sure you didn't write it yourself.


Our Growing Library

FALDP BENEFIT CALENDAR
The FALDP Benefit Calendar is now available on our site, on the Member's Corner page. A portion of the proceeds from each sale of this 2012 Calendar will be used for subsidizing legal document preparation fees for indigent people. The goal is that we will never have to turn anyone away, just because they have no money. We all know that many people qualify for civil indigent status, and can have their court fees waived. If we can create a fund to pay our members, we can do our part to help.

COMING SOON! The Florida Divorce Self-Help Guide. Until now we have only offered the Simplified Dissolution of Marriage Self-Help Guide. Now in the creation process, and scheduled to be released in November is the definitive self-help guide for preparing Florida divorce documents. This guide will be available as an instant download and as a workbook size paperback.

FALDP has developed two new books which are already available on our site. “Family Adoptions, Second Edition” is an updated version of the original, with new author's comments, new cover art, and a new section about second parent adoption. It is available as an instant download or a softcover printed version. “Fundamentals of Florida Legal Document Preparation” is a brand new publication that focuses on the basics. "Child Support Answer Book" includes information and samples about how to answer a petition for child support.


"Meet the Members" Page - Coming Soon

No Member's Spotlight this Month


Soon we will be building a “Meet the Members” page on our site. The Member's Spotlight interviews will be placed on the site next to your Membership Directory information, a photo of you if you send one, and your business card if you like. One of the suggestions from the “back of the class” at the conference was that we should place members business cards on www.faldp.org . We think that's a great idea, and so have evolved the idea into this plan. This is another way to advertise and promote.

If you would like to volunteer to be the subject of a Member's Spotlight, please let us know. Subjects of the Member Spotlight column are invited to reprint the interview on their site, or use it in any way they see fit. Volunteers? Contact us at staff@faldp.org.


Changes On Our Site


Friends of FALDP and FALDP Friends Directory – This is a new place on our site where your friends, family, fans, associates, and satisfied customers can declare their support for our industry.

We want to show the world that legal document preparers are credible. We want the public to know that we are relied upon by consumers just like them. That legal document preparers fill a need that our customers seek out and appreciate.

By offering advertising to businesses who support our industry, we can show the world that we are not alone. We can show the world that other business people have used our services, and are glad they did.

Visit - Friends of FALDP and Friends Directory


The Big Picture


UPL is a Felony

As of 2004, a charge or conviction for the unauthorized practice of law became a felony. This change sneaked up on many legal document preparers too busy trying to make an honest living to take notice of the Florida Bar's shenanigans. Before the charge was ratcheted up it was a misdemeanor and carried a maximum $1,000. fine. Now, as a felony, the fine is up to $5000.

An article posted on the Florida Bar's website, back in 2004, when this change came about, titled, “UPL now Buys A Felony Charge”, gleefully states: “

“The new law will not mean any changes in the Bar’s UPL or disciplinary operations. The UPL Department will continue to seek cease and desist agreements and Supreme Court injunctions against unlicensed practitioners, and indirect criminal contempt citations for those who violate the injunctions. Lori Holcomb, Bar UPL counsel, said the office also will continue its practice of referring the more egregious cases to state attorneys for prosecution.”

And, stated later in that same article:

“The legislation came about after a meeting in the fall of 1982 between the House Judiciary Committee and immediate past Bar President Miles McGrane, who was then president-elect. Representatives said they had heard complaints from constituents that nonlawyers were charging hefty fees for legal matters, frequently in immigration matters, and they were doing little or no work.”

I suppose that attorneys were resentful that “nonlawyers were charging hefty fees for legal matters, … and they were doing little or no work.” After all, it is the attorneys place to do just that.

A felony on your record can damage your life. In Florida, a criminal charge with no conviction shows up in a background check with the same frequency as a conviction. A felony charge with no conviction is enough to be prohibited from working in many types of employment.

Following is a partial list of jobs affected by a felony conviction or plea of no contest:

  • Private Security
  • Private Investigator
  • Repossession Services
  • Notary Public
  • Labor Union Business Agent
  • Horse Racing, Dog Racing, or Jai Alai Fronton Permit Holders and Employees
  • License and permits for explosive users, manufacturers,
  • distributors, and dealers
  • Permit for ether distribution, manufacture, purchase,or dealing
  • Pest Control Operator License
  • Paramedic
  • Nurse
  • Acupuncture License
  • Anesthesiology Assistant
  • Athletic Trainer
  • Certified Social Worker
  • Chiropractic
  • Clinical Social Worker
  • Dentistry
  • Dietetics and Nutrition License
  • Electrolysis License
  • Medical License
  • Mental Health Counselor
  • Midwife
  • Pharmacist
  • Physical Therapist
  • Physician Assistant

    There are many more types of jobs affected by a felony charge or conviction, and even though many of the rules for each state that a conviction is a prohibition for employment, a charge alone will often prevent someone from being hired or issued a license. It doesn't seem right or even reasonable, but ask anyone who has been charged with a felony and adjudication was withheld. Even though there was no conviction, and no plea of nolo contendre, more often than not, that person will still be denied a job based on failing a background check.

    So now that we have established how difficult it is to find work or acquire a license for people charged with or convicted of felonies, exactly what types of crimes are also third degree felonies? Since UPL is considered a felony of the third degree, what other crimes are ranked the same? Ready?

    Here's the short list:

  • Grand Theft
  • Grand Theft Auto
  • Cocaine Possession
  • Possession of a Controlled Substance
  • Burglary of an Occupied Structure
  • Marijuana – Sales, Delivery, or Manufacture
  • Uttering a Forged Instrument
  • Child Neglect

    This list is by no means exhaustive. There are many many more third degree felonies that this. The short list is there to give you the idea of how UPL is classified. There are levels and a point system for felonies, in addition to the degree of felony. I could not find the specific crime of the unauthorized practice of law anywhere; and I'm not sure without further research whether UPL is a level one third degree felony or a level six.

    As far as I can find, the following is the only Florida Statute that specifically addresses the unauthorized practice of law:

    454.23 Penalties.—Any person not licensed or otherwise authorized to practice law in this state who practices law in this state or holds himself or herself out to the public as qualified to practice law in this state, or who willfully pretends to be, or willfully takes or uses any name, title, addition, or description implying that he or she is qualified, or recognized by law as qualified, to practice law in this state, commits a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.

    ...cut to the chase

    By now, you may be saying to yourself, that this is fascinating information … but. What is the point? Fish or cut bait. I gave you the background to drive the point home, to make sure that you know, how threatening we are. UPL laws are written for other reasons than to keep us in our place, maybe. UPL laws are also written to keep unethical actors from pretending to be attorneys when they're not. True enough, but we have fraud laws for that, which have much more teeth than this. If I were a state's attorney and received a referral for prosecution of someone posing as an attorney and taking people's money for under false pretenses, I would prosecute for fraud, not UPL.

    So never doubt that UPL laws are directed at us. We are the threat. After all, people other than lawyers cannot be allowed to go around charging hefty fees and doing little or no work. Whose job is that?


    FALDP Contact Information:
    Main number – (941)237-0951
    Email – staff@faldp.org

    PLEASE LINK YOUR SITE TO WWW.FALDP.ORG
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