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Blog: No, I Can’t Give Legal Advice!

I love my friends, don’t get me wrong, and my best friend, well, there is nothing I wouldn’t do for her. Okay, maybe there are a couple of things I wouldn’t do, like give legal advice or put out a hit, but other than that, I can’t think of too much that I wouldn’t do when she asks for my help. No matter how many times I tell my friends that I can’t give legal advice, they will still call with a question asking me “what would you do!”

Take last week, my friend called telling me about a co-worker she has whose new boyfriend was having problems with his old girlfriend. Seems she was following him around town and was even going to his teenage daughter’s workplace causing scenes. One in particular involved screaming at him when he walked in and accusing him of “giving her a disease!” So, my friend wanted to know what her co-worker’s boyfriend could do about it. Sighhhh. My response was, “I can’t give legal advice.” As much as I wanted to say something and common sense tells you what a person might be able to do to stop this woman from doing what she is doing, I couldn’t give legal advice.

So, what to do, what to do, ughh. Don’t you hate when this happens? You want to just tell them, don’t you? But you know you can’t and this is where it gets many paralegals in trouble. I have heard many new paralegals and even seasoned paralegals tell their friends or even clients what they should do, thinking they are only giving them common sense advice in a given situation. Wrong! When you are a paralegal, giving advice, even common sense advice, is giving legal advice and it is not allowed at any time, unless your supervising attorney has authorized you to pass on their advice to the client and you must tell them the advice is coming from the attorney, not you.

What I did was tell my friend who the “new boyfriend” could call for advice, like an attorney or the police and ask their advice. So, I wasn’t giving legal advice, just pointing them in the direction of where to get the legal advice needed. After all, this is who I would contact if I wasn’t a paralegal. My friend later called me to tell me when the co-worker’s “new boyfriend” contacted the police they immediately issued an EPO (Emergency Protective Order) which immediately stopped the problem, hopefully it will work for the 3 days the EPO is in effect. We will see what happens when the 3 days are up, but I will not, I repeat, will not, give any legal advice when the EPO runs its course and my friend calls telling me the next saga to this story. I am sure there will be more to this story, there always is.

So, all of you veteran paralegals, how do you handle this situation when friends or family ask for your “advice.” I would love to hear and share with our newer paralegals as this is one of the problems we paralegals continually run into on an almost daily basis.

Lori Paul has been a Paralegal for over 10 years in California. She has worked in Criminal Defense, Civil Litigation, Family Law and she recently started working with an attorney in Bankruptcy Law.