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The FALDP Docket -- Florida Association of Legal Document Preparers Monthly Newsletter
November 16, 2017
Members & Friends:

Florida Association of Legal Document Preparers

The FALDP Docket

Volume 7 Issue 11; November 2017


Members and Friends


This is our monthly newsletter. We publish this for the benefit of FALDP members, legal document preparers, and friends.


Announcements


FALDP 8th Annual Conference Rescheduled to May 5th

El Cinco De Mayo!

We have rescheduled our 8th Annual FALDP Conference to Saturday, May 5, 2018. The conference will be held at the Fountain Beach Resort in Daytona Beach as was originally planned. Our agenda and guest speakers will be substantially the same. The $95 conference fee is the same, and if you did not previously register for the conference, we will offer the same combination of conference fee and membership/ renewal fee as we usually do. The agenda and conference registration will be up on our site within the next week.

he accommodation rates for the new May 5 date have increased slightly. Accommodations at the Fountain Beach Resort for conference attendees are $89. per night. We encourage you to register for the conference and make your reservations early. The discount code for accommodations will be provided to you once you register for the conference. Although there is no public event that weekend (besides our conference), spring in general is busier than the fall.So, make your plans and register early.

For those of you who already registered for the conference in September, you are entitled to a refund, providing you request the refund by December 31, 2017. The conference date for September 16 had to be postponed due to looming Hurricane Irma. Reservations at the Fountain Beach Resort for registered attendees were canceled as well.

Through December 31, we are offering refunds or credits as follows:

1. You can request a $95 credit for the conference which will be applied to the conference fee when it takes place. In addition to the $95 conference fee we will also waive your membership fee for next spring - $75.

2. You can request a $170 credit to apply towards any of our online courses.

3. You can request a refund of $95 for the conference fee. If your conference fee was waived because of a special offer such as a three course bundle – you are entitled to a credit in the amount of $95 for either the conference fee or toward online course fees, but not a refund.

Please note if you are requesting a refund and you paid through paypal, we can refund you through paypal if you have a verified paypal account. If you paid through paypal as a guest and do not have a paypal account we will issue you a paper check. The reason for this policy is that if you did not pay through a verified paypal account, and simply used a debit or credit card, paypal will not credit your card.

If you do not request a refund we will assume that your choice is to attend the conference on May 5, and have your renewal fee waived.


You don't have to do anything wrong to get in trouble.

We frequently discuss the rules surrounding the unauthorized practice of law. We do our best to avoid even the appearance of engaging in the unauthorized practice of law. We try to stay abreast of the various court cases that the Florida Bar may rely on when conducting an investigation of the unauthorized practice of law. It is difficult and time consuming to be placed in a position of having to constantly guess, what document preparers are allowed to do and what we are not allowed to do. It is not only difficult and time consuming – also exhausting.

We are business people, owners of small businesses, self-employed individuals simply trying to make a living. We don't try to take work away from attorneys, we take the work attorneys won't do. Our fees are set up for the real world, the reality in Florida is that the median household income is less than $50,000. per year. That's household. A household of one is living comfortably on that amount. A household of four is not.

So many consumers cannot afford attorneys that there is an endless stream of requests for document preparation assistance. We exist to help those people. Many of our customers have a legal matter where there is absolutely no controversy, but a court order is required nonetheless. Actions like divorce, family adoption, name changes, bankruptcy, small probate, and many other types of cases are almost always completely agreed upon by all parties involved. Document preparers help with other types of law suits, such as a preparing an Answer to a Complaint for Debt so that a consumer meets the time deadline to file an answer and avoids a potential civil judgment for a debt which the consumer may not even owe.

We stay busy. We help people. We earn a living.

YET.

We are constantly forced to be aware of what MIGHT be considered the unauthorized practice of law. Maybe the word “legal” on our website … maybe offering “free consultations” … maybe making the huge mistake of referring to ourselves as a “paralegal” could be seized upon by a random attorney or by the Florida Bar and an investigation is triggered. During an investigation the document preparer is almost always reminded that the unauthorized practice of law is a third degree felony and carries possible jail time and fines. This reminder/ threat is often included in the first investigation letter that begins - “You may be engaging in the unauthorized practice of law … etc” - Before the investigating has commenced.

I have made requests over the years to the Florida Bar to clarify the rules. I have sent letters. No reply. I requested a speaker through the Florida Bar Speaker's Bureau to speak at our annual conference. No takers. I have personally invited one of the more aggressive Florida Bar UPL Committee attorneys to be an attorney. Also no reply.

My question is, (and please send me an email if you have an answer), how are we supposed to follow rules that are not clear? See what I mean? You don't have to do anything wrong to get in trouble.


Introduction to Preparing Florida Legal Documents

This was our very first online course, created in 2011, and added to over the years. It is a compliance course to keep document preparers safe in the marketplace. The course explains as many of the fine points as we know about avoiding the unauthorized practice of law. In the next several months, after we have expanded it once again, this course will be mandatory for new members. We already require new members relocating from other states to take this course; and recommend this course to new members who only have law firm experience.

TIKD

If you liked the U.S. Supreme Court case - North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners v. Federal Trade Commission, 135 S. Ct. 1101 (2015) – you'll love this one. A tech start-up TIKD.com is suing the Florida Bar and other Defendants for 11 million dollars, claiming that the Florida Bar and other Defendants are trying to prevent TIKD.com from operating their business. TIKD is owned by nonlawyers and contracts with lawyers to represent consumers in traffic court. The Florida Bar has been investigating TIKD for unauthorized practice of law since last January even before TIKD began doing business in Florida.

TIKD is centered around a phone or online app., where a person who receives a traffic ticket takes a picture of the ticket, and uploads it to TIKD. The person pays a fee which is approximately 20% less than the fee on the traffic ticket. And then that person is done. TIKD hires an attorney to handle the ticket for the person, to have it dismissed, to pay a lesser fee, or whatever. And TIKD makes their money by keeping the difference.

From the Dental Examiners opinion: “Just two years ago, the United States Supreme Court issued a landmark antitrust ruling in North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners v. Federal Trade Commission, 135 S. Ct. 1101 (2015) (“Dental Examiners”). In Dental Examiners, the Supreme Court held that state agencies which are controlled by persons who participate in the occupation the agency regulates are subject to antitrust liability, unless the agency’s acts are actively supervised by politically accountable state officials and are taken pursuant to a clearly articulated state policy intended to restrict competition. The Supreme Court observed, quite logically, that [w]hen a state empowers a group of market participants to decide who can participate in its market, and on what terms, the need for supervision is manifest.'”

Read TIKD's complaint here - https://images.law.com/contrib/content/uploads/documents/392/5395/Tikd-complaint.pdf


Proper Display of our Logo

The FALDP logo is a Registered Collective Mark specifically for members in good standing of the Florida Association of Legal Document Preparers. As long as you are a member of our association, you are authorized to use our logo in any and all of your advertising, including print and virtual. We expect former members to stop displaying our logo within 30 days of terminating membership. We know that some members will drop out to go to work in a different field, or take a position with a law firm, or any number of reasons that FALDP is no longer the right trade association for you. We protect our mark vigilantly to protect all of our members. We know that document preparers join us to add credibility to their services, because joining a trade association shows consumers that you're serious about your business. For that reason, we are zealous about infringement on our mark.

FALDP Certification Update

We have opened the FALDP Certification Exams year round. We plan to keep the exams open all the time to allow members who are seeking certification to have easier access. The exam links remain inside the Members Only area. If you are a member and did not receive the email with the new login for the Members Only area, call 800-515-0496 or email staff@faldp.org and request it.

Memorize this:

As a document preparer its your responsibility to make sure that everyone you speak with about your services knows perfectly well that you are not an attorney. Consumers will call and the first thing they say is - "I have a question". I say:

As you probably know, I'm not an attorney. I am a Florida legal document preparer. What that means is, I can prepare documents, give you legal information, and explain procedure. I cannot offer advice or representation. But I will answer your question as I can.

Sometimes I have to interrupt their question to get these words said. I don't mind ... better safe than sorry. I would never want a consumer to be misled about what I can and cannot do.


TIPS FOR BUILDING REFERRALS

• Create a list of business owners you know who target similar customers and interview them.
• Ask them the criteria they use in making referrals and what they would like in return.
• Set up a tracking system as part of your customer intake file and then review on a quarterly basis where those leads came from.
• Reward your referral sources with a card, bottle of wine, tickets to a game,etc.
• Don’t rely on random referrals. You cannot build a financially successful document preparation business with random referrals. You need people you can count on who consistently send you highly qualified leads. Your business is too valuable to be left in the hands of random acts of fate.
• Identify your primary sources of current and potential referrals. Be sure you know who is currently sending you referrals and thank them and then look for the best possible sources for new referrals and cultivate those relationships.
• Create a system for connecting with current and potential referral sources on a consistent basis. You can either wait half your career to build enough relationships with referral sources to fill your practice or you can intentionally take specific steps to create powerful win-win relationships with dozens of referral sources.

More Member Directories

We created additional member directories to help consumers find our members more easily, and to help our members increase their business income. If you prepare any of these documents, you are missing out on business if you do not submit your information. We built More Member Directories The categories are:

  • Spanish Speaker Directory
  • Bankruptcy Petition Preparer Directory
  • Family Law Document Preparer Directory; and
  • Immigration Document Preparer Directory.

    (We may add additional directories in the future.) If you would like to be included in these additional member directories, forms to submit your information are linked to the Members Only page The Spanish Speaker Directory is displayed on the

    Spanish Help page. Bankruptcy Petition Preparers information will be displayed on the bankruptcy petition preparers page. The list of Bankruptcy Petition Preparers who appear on that page will be removed and replaced with the information from members who submit a form to be included. For some time we have maintained informal directories of various types, And, we feel that it is more fair to include members who submit their information. Family law document preparers information is listed on family law issues. We have removed the informal list and are including only those members who submit the form requesting to be included. The same is true for our immigration document preparers, whose information will appear on Immigration Inclusion in these directories is apart from and in addition to our main Member Directory. Inclusion in our main Member Directory and a Mini-Page is part of your membership. Members are entitled to listings in three counties, and the Premium Member logo is displayed in your home county. Our goal in creating these additional member directories is to help members gain more exposure, and to make it easier for consumers to find you.


    Ask the Members Forum

    We encourage members, document preparers, consumers, actually anyone who knows the answer to answer questions on our Ask FALDP pages. For a member document preparer's post to get past the monitor there are a few things to know. First, answer the question in a way that may help not only the person who posted the question, but also others who may have similar or related questions. We like answers to be around 200 - 400 words. Although we encourage all who answer our questions to include an authoritative source, we require our members to do so. An authoritative source could be a Florida Statute, a court case citation, a government website, an attorney's website, or various other types of sources. We sometimes accept news articles as authority. Member document preparers are encouraged to include a link to their website and contact information. Answers that do not answer the question and/ or do not include authority are discarded. So, if you wonder why your answer never appeared, consider what you may have left out.

    Members can also earn Continuing Education Units (CEU's) by answering questions on our Ask the Members forum. Three accepted answers equals one CEU. We are always behind on answering the questions on the Ask the Members forum and request people who know the answer to post it. Thanks!

    Virtual Providers

    The Virtual Provider designation is an upgrade to your membership. For just $30 annually your information and services can be displayed in 66 of the 67 Florida counties. We exclude Miami-Dade because of their local form requirement, and the difficulty in serving consumers virtually there. If your business model includes assisting consumers over the phone and over the internet, advertising your services as a virtual provider will expand your reach and increase your income. Become a Virtual Provider here. If you have not renewed your virtual provider status since May 2016, its past time to renew. Virtual provider status runs with membership, the time lines are the same. We will send invoices to Virtual Providers.
    VIRTUAL PROVIDER - ANNUAL FEE $30


    Member's Announcements & Contributions

    Have something to share?

    We accept member's announcements and appreciate your contributions. If you have an announcement about your business, an expansion of services, moving your offices, or winning awards, please send us the information and we'll include it in our newsletter. Your announcement needs to be pertinent to your business, we are unable to include announcements about other trade associations, clubs or groups.

    If you would like to write an article, editorial, opinion piece, or web page please let us know. We are always in need of fresh information and insights.


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    FALDP Contact Information:
    Main number – (941)237-0951
    Toll free - (800)515-0496
    Email – staff@faldp.org

    PLEASE LINK YOUR SITE TO WWW.FALDP.ORG
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