Prior to 1985, Arizona law carried criminal penalties against the unauthorized practice of law. But when the legislature failed to renew it, paralegals and other non-lawyers began handling legal matters. And the public embraced them because so many people desperately needed affordable legal assistance. Unfortunately there was no regulation and, as with any profession, there were a few bad apples.
Many attorneys, wanting to maintain their monopoly on legal services, used these bad apples as an excuse to shut down ALL non-lawyers. And throughout the 1990’s and early 2000’s there was much proposed legislation to re-criminalize non-lawyer document preparers. But the public cried out, testifying that most of these non-lawyers were good and provided a valuable and much needed service. There was much media hoopla, including picketing the Arizona capitol and bar conventions (led by Divorce Packet Processing owner, Linda Seger!). And in a true “David beats Goliath”, the non-lawyers beat the bar. However, both non-lawyers and lawyers agreed something had to be done about those bad apples.
In 2002, the Arizona Supreme Court formed a committee of 4 lawyers and 4 non-lawyers, including Ms. Seger. This committee created the Arizona Code for Legal Document Preparers, signed into effect July 2003 and Arizona thus became the first state to formally allow non-lawyers to provide legal services without attorney supervision. And it remains so. (California has a similar program, although it in no way is as encompassing.) Other states will surely follow and our firm is proud to have been part of the process that took on the lawyers and “beat the bar” to allow consumers affordable access to the legal system.