This week, the Federal Circuit found that “patent agent”-client privilege exists independent from the attorney-client privilege, resolving a district court split, according to IPethics and INsights.
While the court recognized the “presumption against the recognition of new privileges,” including that “courts have consistently refused to recognize as privileged communications with other non-attorney client advocates,” it found “that the unique roles of patent agents, the congressional recognition of their authority to act, the Supreme Court’s characterization of their activities as the practice of law, and the current realities of patent litigation counsel in favor of recognizing an independent patent-agent privilege.”
I find this decision particularly interesting in light of the increasing numbers of non-lawyer legal services providers. While the privilege will no doubt remain sacred, the court’s reasoning did rely on the “clear congressional intent to authorize an agency to create and regulate a group of individuals with specific authority to engage in the practice of law,” a factor which will no doubt be relevant as our regulatory scheme increasingly embraces alternative legal service providers.
h/t to Wake Law Student and Patent Agent John Sears.
No state receives higher than a ‘C’ overall on the new Report Card on Barriers to Affordable Legal Help released today by Responsive Law.
Tom Gordon, Executive Director of Responsive Law, explains more in today’s USA Today:
Imagine that at tax time you’re required to either fill out your 1040 without help or pay a CPA hundreds of dollars to do it for you. There’s no H&R Block, and while TurboTax exists, it’s under constant siege by state regulators for being an unlicensed accountant.
That’s analogous to the situation that most Americans face whenever they have a legal issue. For even simple matters, they have to either do it themselves, hire a lawyer for over $200 an hour or use software that can do the job well but which the lawyer cartel is trying to put out of business.
Responsive Law’s Report Card on Barriers to Affordable Legal Help, which will be released Thursday, grades each state on how restrictions created by lawyers make legal help expensive and inaccessible for its residents. No state received a grade above a C. The two factors most responsible for the low grades are restrictions on who can provide legal services and restrictions on the corporate structure of law firms.
For a basic will or uncontested divorce, a consumer could be well served by a competent professional other than a lawyer. However, in most states, only lawyers are allowed to provide these services. State bars have used vaguely worded restrictions on the “unauthorized practice of law” to bring legal actions against everyone from major companies like LegalZoom to small mom-and-pop operations.
The worst offender in restricting competition is Florida, which received an F in the category of Barriers to Non-Lawyer Help. The Florida Bar has a $1.97 million annual budget dedicated to enforcement of unauthorized practice restrictions that it has used to pursue charges against people like Katie Vickers, a senior citizen who helped a fellow parishioner at her church with completing workers compensation forms.
The Faculty Lounge has a lengthy post discussing the recent Second Circuit decision reversing the FRCP 12(b)(6) dismissal of a potential class action lawsuit by a contract lawyer doing document review for Skadden. (The story also appeared in a recent ABA e-Journal article.) The blog post – and comments – are worth reading. (As of this morning, however, I didn’t think the 11 blog comments sufficiently addressed the relationship between UPL laws and the UPL safe harbor provision found in Rule 5.5 and which view of UPL would “trump,” given the fact that in many states, these two stem from different branches of government).
From Richard Granat, H&R Block Forced to Shut Down Immigrant Document Service by the Bar | eLawyering Blog
H&R Block launched an experimental and innovative service in Texas in January to assist immigrants in completing INS forms. The forms were powered by software and H&R Block’s role was to provide a service to assist users in completing the forms within their offices– , but no legal advice was to be provided.
It didn’t take long for the organized immigration bar to shut this service down.
More details here: http://buff.ly/1xn92pl