Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Unhealthy Pooch

A non-attorney has been fined $10,000 for unauthorized practice by the Ohio Supreme Court

According to the sworn affidavits and other documents filed with  relator’s default motion, in November 2016, Elishia Krauss hired Spicer to assist her with preparing documents for a new pet-food business. Spicer advised Krauss that he owned a company known as “SPI Legal Services, L.L.C.,” that his title was “Senior Paralegal,” and that he subcontracted with 26 attorneys. He provided Krauss with a “Contract For Legal Services,” in which he agreed to prepare certain documents for her business in exchange for a “non-refundable retainer” of $2,100. Spicer e-mailed Krauss requesting that she complete an “LLC Questionnaire,” which he indicated would allow him “to prepare the LLC as well as the Articles of Incorporation and Operating Agreement.” Spicer also advised According to the sworn affidavits and other documents filed with Krauss that although he would be her primary contact, Josh Waters, an attorney with the law firm of
Markesbery & Richardson Co., L.P.A., would be her attorney.

After Krauss paid the retainer, Spicer prepared the following documents on her behalf: (1) articles of organization for her new limited-liability company, Healthy Pooch, L.L.C., (2) an operating agreement for Healthy Pooch, (3) a certificate designating a registered office and agent for the company, and (4) a “Confidentiality, Non-Competition, and Non-Solicitation Agreement.” Spicer signed one copy of the confidentiality agreement, which indicated that Healthy Pooch had employed him as a “paralegal” and that he had agreed to keep confidential certain information about the company and not to compete with the company or solicit customers away from it. The agreement included a mandatory arbitration clause. According to Krauss’s communications with Spicer, she intended to have other individuals—such as a baker and a graphic designer—also sign the confidentiality agreement.

In December 2016, Krauss paid Spicer an additional $1,000 to prepare estate-planning documents, including wills, living wills, and durable powers of attorney. Spicer, however, stopped communicating with Krauss, failed to send her any estate-planning documents, and failed to refund her money.

She then went to the police.

The court

Here, relator submitted prima facie evidence showing that Spicer had prepared legal agreements and instruments for Krauss and accepted fees for those services. And although Spicer claimed that he subcontracted with attorneys or was otherwise associated with one, by refusing to participate in this matter, he failed to submit any evidence suggesting that an Ohio-licensed attorney had supervised his legal work for Krauss or reviewed any of the documents that he had prepared for her. This collective conduct falls within our precedent described above. We therefore agree with the board’s finding that Spicer engaged in the unauthorized practice of law.

In addition to the fine, the court enjoined future practice. (Mike Frisch)


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