Unauthorized Practice of Law

February 28, 2013


Oklahoma attorneys wear white hats.  Recently reported statistics prove it.  If you are one who believes that most attorneys act unethically, think again.  In Oklahoma, at least, that certainly was not the case last year.  The General Counsel, or head attorney for the Oklahoma Bar Association (OBA), Gina Hendryx, just published an article of her summary of the 2012 Annual Report by the ethics commission.   The commission is charged with the duty to investigate written complaints about attorneys in the State.

There were 17,232 members of the OBA in 2012, and only five percent of them received a complaint last year.  In all, complaints numbered 1,149 and involved 891 attorneys.  Those were investigated, resulting in 279 new cases being opened for investigation.  The Oklahoma Supreme Court acted upon 25 of them, or 1 in 1000 licensed attorneys!

The Professional Responsibility Commission in Oklahoma also investigates reports of paralegals believed to be engaging in the unauthorized practice of law (UPL).

Last year, 49%, the largest category of those alleged to have participated in the UPL, were paralegals.  Armed with this knowledge, paralegals should of course avoid any behavior that might remotely appear to be engaging in the practice of law.  But, they can also be proactive and help their supervising attorneys avoid typical client complaints.  The number one reason for a client grievance is attorney neglect of the client’s matter.  Paralegals can see that client files are rotated regularly for the attorney’s review, that client telephone calls are returned promptly, and that all client questions are answered.

Paralegal students at Community Care College in Tulsa, Oklahoma are learn all about legal ethics in the course Ethics for the Law Office.