Unauthorized Practice - 2

Unauthorized Baking, Part 2 (continued)

I prepare legal documents. I do not persuade or advise. When couples, parents, and families, cannot manage their lives on their own, the family court system decides for them. Those who can afford it, hire an attorney. For many, however, the expense is unthinkable. Either, they must give up or go it alone.

There is little help available for the self represented. No one will guide them. They journey to the courthouse and ask the clerk what to do. She will not say. She could lose her job, she could be accused of practicing law. Stubbornly, she refuses to say what she knows.

Legal aid is nearly nonexistent. Guidelines for free legal services are limited, and commonly available only for the severely indigent. Pro bono services, attorneys volunteering their services, are even more difficult to come by. I think that pro bono services are a modern day fairytale.

Having, no choice, people try to solve their problem alone. Anger drives their search. Scouring cyberspace, sifting through thousands of sites, searching for that one grain of information that might help.

When they find me, I can only say so much. To even tell them which form to file is a crime – a felony. Like the court clerk, I am not allowed to choose a form. The government says that merely telling someone which form to file is practicing law. I am careful. I lead them to their own conclusion.

Some people begin to understand the arcane language. The government issued instructions for the forms supposedly designed for average citizens in everyday English, are, in fact, obscure. The wording is like stereo instructions poorly translated from Chinese. The words don't flow. People read the form instructions over and over, desperately trying to find the meaning in the words. Many give up in frustration.

In this country we have the right to access the legal system. The U.S. Constitution guarantees that right. Having a right, and being able to exercise a right are two different things.

We also have the right to bake a cake. But, let's say, that all the recipes are written in a foreign language. And the only people that can understand the foreign language are chefs. And the chefs will bake the cake for you, for a fee, but they refuse to tell you how to do it yourself. Because, if they told people how to do it, people would do it themselves, there would be no need for chefs; and the chefs would lose money. Or, let's say, the recipes aren't completely written in a foreign language, but there are foreign phrases throughout. The recipe writers assume that the readers are chefs, and have spent years in culinary school. The recipes are replete with jargon, unexplained procedures, unavailable ingredients, and foreign phrases.

People in need of cake have three choices. They can pay the chef's fee; teach themselves how to bake; or go without.

Imagine first, that the chefs charge excessive fees -- thousands of dollars for one cupcake, with no guarantee how it will taste. And then imagine, that when a nonchef teaches himself how to bake, he is not allowed to bake cakes for others, or to teach others how to bake their own. He could be charged with a crime – a felony – unauthorized baking. A nonchef may teach people improper culinary technique, or cause some harm. Maybe, an amateur baker could hurt himself, burn up the kitchen or poison his family.

Welcome to my world.
There are victories. Through persistent research, people can access the legal system. Citizens can exercise their right. I can direct them to information. I can write almost anything I want, my written free speech is, so far, intact, more or less. As long as my written words are directed to a general audience, and not to any certain person, I can write as I please. I can invent possible scenarios and provide possible solutions, as long as they are not the real life scenarios of real life people. The argument is that since I am not an attorney, I could cause harm. I could give bad advice. And, its true, I could. Attorneys, likewise, can give bad advice; and sometimes they do.

My spoken words are not protected free speech, not in this part of the world, not here. I may not tell people what to do or how to do it. I may not give legal advice. I may not choose a form. I may not discuss possible outcomes, strategies, or options for any legal action that could affect the legal rights of any certain person. I may not speculate as to what could happen if they filed this or filed that.

As for the governments' answer to citizens' pleas for their right to access the legal system, the government responds with a resounding: