A lot of my clients are “in the business” of flipping houses as a side gig. Many of them use and view this as a portion of their retirement plan. Often, they will consult with me on many of the headaches and legal hurdles from Landlord-Tenant issues to LLC formations. Many of these clients tend to be some of the most independent and business savvy people that I know. They know how to get the most out of me and the most out of their dollar. So occasionally, because of their vast experience and know-how, they tend to take on more than they should or say “I can do this myself”. I often urge them (after the fact and after their confession) that they should run these things by their attorney before acting. Then I tell them that I will rarely send them a bill for the “what do you think about this?” two minute phone conversation.
After the recent Ohio Unauthorized Practice of Law Disciplinary Counsel case involving a Cleveland real estate investor, some of those business savvy clients of mine might want to consider making that two minute phone call. In Disciplinary Counsel v. Thomas Jones, Jr., Case no. 2013-0611, the Board on the Unauthorized Practice of Law recommended that the Supreme Court find that Thomas Jones, Jr., of Cleveland, engaged in the unauthorized practice of law by preparing four deeds for two Cleveland homeowners. Additionally, the board recommended that the court issue an order prohibiting Jones, who is not an attorney, from practicing law as a non-lawyer in the future and charge him a $10,000 civil penalty.
Mr. Jones and his business partner, a dis-barred Ohio attorney, were purchasing properties in foreclosure and subsequently preparing quitclaim deeds for new owners and transferring the properties to them. The Disciplinary Counsel’s argument in interoperating Ohio’s Unauthorized Practice of Law statute asserts that legal documents—including deeds, contracts, and trusts—may not be prepared by a non-lawyer for the benefit of another. Free piece of legal advice, if you think your actions might be questionable, call your attorney and ask for help, a few dollars now might save you a $10,000 fine later.