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Client disagrees w/ definition of UPL

Hello everyone ,

I need some advice. I apologize in advance for the long explanation. I was retained to help a pro se litigant with formatting and proofreading his pleadings. I have done nothing else with the pleadings. I do not conduct legal research or cite check his case law. I have reached out to the Court a couple of times to ask questions for clarification re how something should be sent to the court, but all the tasks I have performed have essentially been legal secretary type tasks. At the beginning, I told him I could not and would not give advice, make substantial changes to his documents etc. it was just formatting to make sure they met court filing requirements and he agreed he did not want anything else.


I never should have used the term freelance paralegal because now that the case is moving forward, one of the defense counsel stated some unverified information in a pleading re: plaintiff's use of a freelance paralegal. They said he was using a paralegal employed by an OR law firm and found an old posting from a job I'm no longer with and they are making claims to the Court in the pleading that since he had bad case law in his pleadings, I must be practicing law and providing this information for him. (Of course, I'd like to say if I was cite checking or doing legal research it would be correct but I can't)


I haven't done anything wrong with the work I've performed but I am extremely shaken up by someone I do not know making such serious accusations against me. The pro se client continues to say he is entitled to use a paralegal and the services a paralegal can perform but I have told him and showed him where my concern lies.  I've told him by continuing to state he can use a paralegal the same way as a lawyer, it could be misleading that I may be doing something more than formatting pleadings because a paralegal working for an attorney is being supervised by someone with a law degree.


i want to end the contract. He says I am being irrational and letting opposing counsel get to me and if I walk away now, the other side will assume I did something inappropriate and it will make things worse. I know what I did and did not do and I have a clear conscious but I am scared. I would appreciate any thoughts (besides the obvious - no more work from pro se people). Thank you


Community Member

You are absolutely right, and you're in a precarious situation. If you're going to work directly with clients at all, you should be having them sign an agreement acknowledging the limits of the services you can perform. Make sure you preserve your messages with the client explaining those limitations. In your shoes, I would definitely stop working with the client immediately, and would make sure to be clear that you are doing so because it appears that he expects you to perform services you cannot legally or ethically provide. 


You may want to contact an attorney in the state where the case is pending. It seems to me that you may want to get out ahead of this by advising the judge and opposing counsel that you have terminated the relationship due to the client's apparent misunderstanding of the role you could play and briefly explaining the limits of the work you have done. But I think that is a call best made by an attorney in the appropriate jurisdiction.

Thank you so much

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