Sunday, February 4, 2018

Is America Great?

I got into an argument today with some folks (on Facebook of course) about whether or not the United States is a great country. To my astonishment, many of the people on the feed denied that the United States is great at all and proceeded to compare the U.S. to third world countries and worse. I've traveled to other countries, and from what I have personally seen, the U.S. has a lot going for it.

I absolutely agree that the U.S. has some problems that need to be sorted out. In my opinion, however, the pluses far outweigh the minuses.

The U.S. has a very high standard of living. Real GDP/capita is currently $57,608 [in 2018], which is not the highest, but arguably the highest among large countries. Compare that to China’s $15,395 . Astonishing, right?

It’s the most popular immigration destination. Clearly the US has the largest immigrant population among all the countries in the world. This is is even more impressive when you consider that the US’s immigration policy is very restrictive. According to the U.N.'s 2015 report 46,627,102 people living in the United States were born in other countries. So there must be some compelling reasons for people to want to come.

The U.S. is culturally and racially diverse, and was shaped by large waves of immigration from Europe and beyond. American literature, art and music reflect the rich heritage of the country’s people

It’s a great place to do business. Every year, Swiss business school IMD conducts a ranking on which countries are the most competitive. This is the most reputable competitiveness ranking in the world. In the 2017 ranking, the US is ranked #3.

 The U.S. economy is the world’s largest in terms of gross domestic product, and also the most technologically powerful. The country’s most significant exports are computers and electrical machinery, vehicles, chemical products, food, live animals and military equipment. The U.S. also has the world’s largest coal reserves.

In addition, the U.S. Influences other countries by the export of intangible products like movies, TV shows, music, software, and video games. Essentially, almost all media we consume today in the west is American, and many cultures are strongly influenced by the US’s.

The United States is top-notch for research and education. It has not only the vast majority of the world’s best universities: MIT, Stanford, Harvard, and Caltech. The United States has had the most Nobel Prize winners, with 336 winners overall. It has been most successful in the area of Physiology or Medicine, with 94 laureates since 1901.

Monday, January 15, 2018

"I Have a Dream" - Martin Luther King speech

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we've come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the "unalienable Rights" of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds."

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we've come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. And there will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.

We cannot walk alone.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.

We cannot turn back.

There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities.*We cannot be satisfied as long as the negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating: "For Whites Only."* We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until "justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream."¹

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest -- quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of "interposition" and "nullification" -- one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; "and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together."2

This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.

With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
And this will be the day -- this will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning:

My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.
Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim's pride,
From every mountainside, let freedom ring!

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.
And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.
Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.
Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.
Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

But not only that:
Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.
From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

Free at last! Free at last!
Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

Thursday, January 11, 2018

DACA, TPS, and four reasons why we should welcome immigrants.

Judge Alsup's January 9 ruling to block the Trump regime from ending DACA, and allowing Dreamers to stay, was a victory. But don't pop the champagne cork just yet.

DACA stands for “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals”. Minors who were brought to the U.S. Illegally are affected by DACA. This group, called Dreamers, has been allowed to stay in the U.S. even though they came in illegally, because they were children at the time of arrival, and should not be held responsible for their parents' act. Many Dreamers did not know they did not have legal immigration status until they were grown and faced with grown up things, such as college, financial aid, job hunting, and, even getting a driver's license.

Trump ended DACA renewals. Judge Alsup's order blocked Trump's end to DACA, but only ended it temporarily and only with some additional hoops to jump through. Trump and his Department of Justice will likely appeal Judge Alsup's order, and may well request a stay in upholding the order pending a final ruling. Also, the ruling gives USCIS time to begin accepting DACA renewals again. I was not able to find out when that will happen.

Also this month, the Trump regime ended Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for immigrants from El Salvador. This at the same time as the state department issued travel advisories to El Salvador because of its crime rate and is now listed as unsafe. Safe enough to deport people to – not safe enough to visit. The removal of protected status affects about 200,000 refugees from El Salvador who have been told to find another way to stay in the U.S. or face deportation.

And or January 9, Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) raided ninety-eight 7-11 stores in search of illegal immigrants. The raids yielded a whopping 21 arrests. I wonder what that cost the tax payers. The convenience store raids were apparently meant to punish employers who ignore the rules about hiring illegal immigrants.

  1. Immigrants help keep the work force young. The U.S. does not want to be an aging nation with an aging work force. The largest group of U.S. residents is baby boomers, and those boomers are getting old. We need new young people to work to keep the economy growing and vibrant.
  2. Immigrants help keep the birth rate high. The lower the mother's educational level the more babies she will have. The U.S. needs more babies to grow up and become the next work force.
  3. Humanitarian. Allowing immigrants into America is the right thing to do. We have the physical space. There is no reason to keep our beautiful country to ourselves.
  4. The U.S. Is a country of immigrants. Most natural born U.S. citizens cannot trace their family origins in the U.S. more than a couple of generations back.

I support immigration and have little tolerance for illegal immigration. In general, I believe if people want to come to the U.S. they should come legally or not at all. But, I also recognize extenuating circumstances. Some people are eligible but unable to pay the fees. For that reason, we created our FALDP Get Documented Initiative. Our document preparers can refer people for a low interest loan to cover their immigration needs. The available loan amount is between $700 and $20,000, and is based on the consumer's banking history.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Evie's Day in Court

Four years at university, three years of law school and eleven years of practice were not enough to win a case against Evie. Jack Campbell, Esquire had encountered women like her before. At age 29, having already made serious life mistakes, Evie was not about to let her past ruin her life.

On her day in court Evie overcame her lack of education and history of drug addiction to be awarded frequent and unsupervised timesharing with her twin five year olds. Despite the fact that her former husband had retained counsel and had insisted that he, the father, should have sole custody, the judge awarded shared parental custody. And, even though Evie had to appear with no attorney to represent her the court followed the Florida family law rules and awarded her everything she requested in her petition for modification.

Evie knew down in her soul that her life, her case, was more important to her than it was to any attorney. Her attorney, while she had one, was all about the money, and had withdrawn the minute she could no longer pay him $500. per month whether he did any work or there was any court activity or not. Opposing attorney, Campbell, seemed to want to draw things out and string things along as long as possible. Evie just wanted to see her kids more than one supervised overnight visit per month.

By the time she had her day in court, Evie had been waiting almost two years. She had voluntarily let her children live with their father so that she could have an opportunity to get a better job, make sure she could stay clean, and get a stable living arrangement. But, the father, Charles, took the opportunity to take over everything, and before she knew it Evie was obliged to pay $500 in child support even though her income was much less than Charles'.

For every short story, there is a long story. Evie had never finished high school due to her attention deficit disorder and then falling so far behind in her classes that it was too overwhelming for her to even try to catch up. After a free fall through the cracks in the system, she quit school as soon as she legally could. She drifted for a couple of years, partying with her friends, having her time, living off the parents. She went to work at one of the many bars in the beach town where she lived. Being a barmaid was a perfect fit for her outgoing personality. Smiling and flirting, fetching and carrying drinks, earning decent money. The work atmosphere was fun. Everyone worked together, Work hard – play hard was her mantra.

By age 23 she racked up two DUI's, was arrested for possession of a controlled substance (oxycodone), and married one of her regular customers, Charles. He was a couple of years older and a Marine. At first Evie was entranced and enchanted by Charles' direct approach to life and his ambition to pursue a military career. Soon after their wedding Charles received orders to relocate to north Florida, Fort Walton Beach in Okaloosa County. The honeymoon ended quickly. Charles was sent out for training and then deployed overseas, leaving Evie in an unfamiliar town. She went to work in the only trade she knew, tending bar, made new friends and entertained herself with partying, drinking, and pills. Charles would come and go, and for a long time had no idea that Evie was using pills. She was an expert at hiding her addiction as she had hidden her usage from her parents for years.

Evie woke up one morning in her car which was parked outside the bar where she worked. She was in her work clothes from the night before. Her keys were in the ignition and the contents of her purse were dumped out on the seat next to her. A half full cup of what smelled like scotch was in the cup holder. The smell of which made her retch. Her head hurt and she was thirsty. She did not remember going to work the night before, or working, or leaving work, or going to her car, or
drinking, or apparently taking all of the pills that she had in her purse. At the moment of not remembering, she realized two things. That she was lucky to be alive, and that she did not want Charles to know. It was easy enough for Charles not to know as he was deployed on assignment somewhere, and not expected back for another week.

Evie put her things back in her purse, poured the contents of the cup out the window, smoothed her hair, and drove home – back roads all the way. She did not want to be pulled over or have to speak to a law enforcement officer for any reason, not now, not today. Once home, she slept, got up, raided the fridge, and slept some more. That evening when Charles' skype call came through, she ignored it. She had to think, she needed time to clear her brain so she could think before she spoke to him. She knew he'd detect that something was off with her if he saw her on skype. Before they married she had promised him that all of her drinking and drugging activities were in the past. She felt bad for letting him down, and she felt let down too. The marriage thing was not what she expected, not what she thought she was getting into. He was gone all the time. Home maybe four or five days a month – a week at the most. She was left to her own devices, which obviously were not very good devices, as she had gone back to the same life she had before they were married, except without her life long friends around her.

So she left. She packed up and left and went back to her parent's house in Daytona Beach. She left Charles a note saying that she had some things to work out and had gone back to her parent's house and didn't know when she'd be back. She knew Charles would be hurt and angry; and she knew her parents would be judgmental and angry. She avoided Charles' skypes and calls as long as she could, but finally a few days after he returned from his mission she picked up her cell when he called. Tears and shouting ensued. Despite Evie not wanting Charles to know about her pill addiction she finally confessed to him. He told her not to call or contact him until and unless she had checked herself into rehab.

Evie's parents were not amused that she had left her husband after less than two years for no other reason than he worked a lot. Evie's dad let her know that she could stay with them for one month maximum, and then she needed to get her own place or go back to her husband. Evie went to work right away at her former beach bar. Before the one month was up, however, Evie learned she was pregnant with twins. Evie's mom was ecstatic to be a grandma, Evie's dad didn't say much at all. They both told her she had to tell Charles.

Charles hung up on her every time she called. He would hang up as soon as he asked whether she was in rehab and she said no. After several tries, she quit calling. Charles filed for divorce, Evie agreed to it and did not attend the court hearing.

Evie's parents caved and let her stay with them until after the babies were born, but, they said, then she would definitely have to find her own place. Evie stayed clean the entire time she was pregnant. Did not drink a drop and did not take one pill.

After the babies were born, the three of them moved in with one of Evie's lifelong friends and her two children. Evie applied for social assistance, food stamps, and child support. Charles denied that the children were his. Only after a court ordered DNA test did Charles recognize the twins as his own. And once he did, he took full advantage of Evie's request for him to take them for a while so that she could get back on her feet and get clean. He went to the Department of Children and Families and convinced them that due to Evie drug addiction she was not fit to raise the children and he should have sole custody. (Evie had not used any drugs since she had found out she was pregnant.) And then Charles went to the Department of Revenue and requested child support, and he was awarded $500 per month.

But everything changed the day Evie finally got her day in court.

Thursday, December 21, 2017



Aeiou... PEACE in Every Language: 

A Paz... Galician, Portuguese 

Achukma... Choctaw 
Alaáfía... Yoruba 
Amaithi... Tamil 
Aman... Malay, Urdu 
Amaní... Swahili 
Amniat... Persian, Farsi, Iran 
Ashtee... Pashto 
Asomdwee... Twi-Akan 
Aylobaha Gafuleya... Chontal 
Bake... Basque 
Barish... Turkish 
Béke... Hungarian 
Boóto... Mongo-Nkundu 
Búdech... Palauan 
Chibanda... Ila 
Däilama... Sa'a 
Der Frieden... German 
Damai... Indonesian 
Diakatra... Maranao 
Dodolimdag... Papago/Pima 
Eace-pay... Pig Latin:-)) 
Echnahcaton... Munsterian 
Emem... Efik 
Ets'a'an Olal... Maya 
'Éyewi... Nez Perce 
Fandriampahalemana... Malgache 
Fiadanana... Malagasy, Madagascar 
Filemu... Samoan 
Fois... Scottish, Gaelic 
Fred... Danish, Norwegian, Swedish 
Frieden... German 
Fridur... Icelandic 
Goom-jigi... Buli 
Gúnnammwey... Carolinian 
Hasîtî ...Kurdish 
Hau... Tahitian 
Heddwich... Welsh 
Heiwa... Japanese 
Hmethó... Otomi 
Hoa Bình... Vietnamese 
Heping... Mandarin 
Ilifayka... Koasati 
Innaihtsi'iyi... Blackfoot 
Iri'ni... Greek 
Írq... Amharic 
Isithangami... Zulu 
Ittimokla... Alabama 
Kagiso... Setswana 
Kalayaan... Philippines 
Kalilíntad... Magindanaon 
Kapayapaan... Tagalog Filipino

Kappia.. Ilocano, Philippines
Kareenan...Pangasinan, Philippines 
Katahimikan... Philipino 

K'é... Navajo 

Keamanan... Indonesian 
Ketenteraman... Malay 
Kev Thajyeeb Nyab Xeeb... Hmong Daw 
Khanhaghutyun... Armenian 
Khotso... Sesotho 
Kiñuiñak... Northwest Alaska Inupiat Inuktitut 
Kiba-kiba... Rapanui 
Kunammwey... Chuuk 
Kupia Kumi Laka... Miskito 
Kutula... Fanagolo 
Kwam Sa... Lao 
La Pace... Italian, Romanian 
La Paix... French 
La Paqe... Albanian 
La Patz... Aranés 
La Pau... Catalán 
La Paz... Spanish 
Lapé... Haitian Creole 
Layéni... Zapoteco 
Li-k'ei... Tlingit 
Linew... Manobo 
Lìmana... Hausa 
Mabuhay... Tagalog 
Maluhia... Hawaiian 
Meleilei... Ponapean 
Melino... Tonga 
Mier... Slovak 
Miers... Latvian 
Mina... Wintu 
Mír... Bosnian, Bulgarian, Byelorussian, Croatian, Czech, Russian, Serbian, Slovene, Ukrainian Mtendere... Chewa, Nyanja 
Muka-muka... Ekari 
Musango... Duala 
Mutenden... Bemba 
Nabad Da... Somali 
Nanna Ayya... Chickasaw 
Ñerane'i... Guaraní 
Nimuhóre... Ruanda 
Nirudho... Pali 
Nye... Ntomba 
Nyein-jan-ye... Burmese 
Olakamigenoka... Abenaqui

Pace... Italian. Romanian

Paçi... Maltese 

Paco... Esperanto


Pax... Latin

Paz in Portuguese

Peace... English 

Perdamaian... Indonesian 
Pingan... Chinese 
Pokój... Polish, Slovak 
Pyong'hwa... Korean 
Rahu... Estonian 
Rangima'arie... Maori 
Rauha... Finnish 
Rerdamaian... Indonesian 
Roj...Klingon, Star Trek:-))
Rukun... Javanese 
Saamaya... Sinhalese 
Saanti... Nepali 
Sai Gaai Òh Pìhng... Yue 
Salam... Arabic, Persian 
Santipap... Thai 
Saq... Uighur 
Shalom... Hebrew Shîte 
Shiy-De... Tibetan 
Shanti... Bengali, Gujarati, Kannada, Hindi, Telugu, Sanskrit, Balinese 
Shulem... Yidish 
Síocháin... Irish 
Sìth... Gaelic, Scottish 
Soksang... Khmer 
Solh... Dari, Persian 
Sonqo Tiaykuy... Quechua 
Sulh... Turkish 
Taika... Lithuainian 
Tecócatú... Nhengatu 
Thayu... Gikuyu 
Tsumukikatu... Comanche 
Tuktuquil Usilal... Kékchí 
Tutkiun... North Alaska Inuktitut 
Ubucwantalala... Zulu 
Udo... Igbo 
Ukuthula... Zulu 
Uvchin... Mapudungun 
Uxolo... Xhosa 
Vrede... Afrikaans and Dutch  
Wâki Ijiwebis-I... Algonquin 
Wetaskiwin... Cree 
Wolakota... Lakhota 
Wôntôkóde... Micmac 

Wo'okeyeh... Sioux 

We Use Documents

We drown in information and documents. Work life and personal life. Sometimes we have to read and interpret documents, sometimes we have to create or explain documents. Besides the written documents, words, we read for pleasure and general information, there are documents that are closely aligned with our well being. Everything we do has an entire body of information attached. Instructions, warnings, and definitions. Among the documents that we read, interpret, create, and explain are utility bills, insurance claims, cell phone contracts, residential leases, commercial leases, rental car contracts, homeowners insurance, bank statements, birth certificates, passports, apostilles, letters, orders, promissory notes, property abstracts, property deeds, rental agreement, settlement agreements, plea agreements, prenuptial agreements, loan notes, writs of possession, garnishments, and as many more types of documents that a person may need at some point in his or her life, all depending on specific events and goals that cause the need for the documents to arise.

The problem is, most of us cannot fully process each and every document encountered. For those who are able to comprehend, time to do so is the next challenge. We welcome the time to live our lives, watch our children grow, and carry out our adventures, rather than parsing through yet another set of documents which we will conquer once and never look at again. In addition to the documents listed above there are also legal documents that may demand our urgent attention as life events dictate. These might include divorce petitions, consents to adopt, paternity actions, answers, wills, trusts, deeds, powers of attorney, advance directives, prenuptial agreements, antenuptial agreements, plea bargains, bankruptcy petitions, tax returns, and as many more types of documents that a person may need at some point in his or her life, all depending on specific events and goals that cause the need for the documents to arise.

People want and need help staying afloat in this man made information sea. There are various businesses that exist solely for the purpose of compiling, organizing, using,and restructuring information, What if all of these businesses suddenly disappeared all at the same time.

Imagine if you will, that suddenly there are no tax preparers, no insurance agents, no realtors, no accountants, no title companies, and no notaries, All the sudden every single person must handle all of their own documents themselves. What if there were no one to help us read, interpret, create, or explain any of these documents which are representative of entire bodies of information that may be crucial to our well-being.

Lack of timely attention to certain types of documents can have serious consequences, including fines, penalties, and loss. A large part of modern day survival is staying on the right side of regulations. We need our support systems, our document helpers, and all of those businesses that help us stay afloat.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

UPL - It's deja vu all over again.

As the Director of the Florida Association of Legal Document Preparers ( I make every effort to educate members about the rules surrounding the unauthorized practice of law (UPL). When I notice a member advertising in a way that may mislead the public or trigger a UPL investigation, I contact the member and tell them. Upon joining our association each member is required to acknowledge and agree to our FALDP Pledge which states:
As a Member of the FALDP, I agree:
  • To refrain from offering legal advice. 
  • To direct my customers to information so that they may make informed decisions.
  • To provide responsive customer service.
  • To comply fully with applicable state and federal laws.
  • To ensure clear and truthful advertising.
  • To clearly disclose costs and relevant terms.
  • To represent myself as a legal document preparer, and not as a paralegal.
  • To refer customers to an attorney for legal advice. 
  • To conduct my business ethically.
  • To respect my customers’ privacy.
  • To keep in strict confidence my customers’ affairs, and not share information about a customer without that customer’s permission unless court ordered.
  • To support legislation promoting public access to the legal system. 

We offer an online course called “Introduction to Preparing Florida Legal Documents”, which is primarily a compliance course. The course is meant to educate document preparers about the rules surrounding UPL, and also includes information about doing business as a Florida Legal Document Preparer. Some of the UPL rules are clearly posted on the Florida Bar's website, other rules are scattered about in various court cases. The Intro Course is not required unless the document preparer is relocating to Florida from another state or is starting a document preparation business for the first time. I suggest to some experienced paralegals who submit membership applications that they should take the Intro Course, because working under the supervision of an attorney and working for self-represented litigants are two very different activities.

There are things which are considered UPL that no one could imagine, but there they are. You don't know until you know. For example, Florida legal document preparers are not allowed to advertise “free consultations” as this is something that attorneys offer. Florida legal document preparers are not allowed to draft property deeds. It remains unclear whether document preparers can prepare a property deed using a standard template. Document preparers are likewise prohibited from sending a document to a consumer with the word “draft” in the title. We suppose that “draft” in the Florida Bar's reasoning means creating or authoring; but according to multiple dictionaries I checked, “draft” means a preliminary version of a writing.

It is not clear whether document preparers may assist pro se litigants in efiling their documents. . Other document preparers have been told by the Florida Bar that they may not use the word “legal” anywhere on their website or as part of their email address. Document preparers have also been reprimanded for using the words “professional” and “experienced” on their sites or in their advertising when referring to themselves. In addition, document preparers have been told not to mention that they have law firm experience, are a member (or former member) of NALA, and to refrain from mentioning any academic credentials or achievements. For example, document preparers (according to the Florida Bar) are not allowed to state in their advertising that they have a Paralegal Certificate or a BA in Legal Studies – even though these are true facts. All of these things, according to the Florida Bar, mislead the public. And I suppose, mislead the public into somehow thinking that the document preparer is an attorney, even though document preparers make clear in their advertising that they are not attorneys and do not offer legal advice or representation.

In support of their position, the Florida Bar frequently relies on FLORIDA BAR v. BRUMBAUGH 355 So.2d 1186 (1978) and Sperry v. Florida 373 U.S. 379 (1963). Sperry states:

“... if the giving of such advice and performance of such services affect important rights of a person under the law, and if the reasonable protection of the rights and property of those advised and served requires that the persons giving such advice possess legal skill and a knowledge of the law greater than that possessed by the average citizen, then the giving of such advice and the performance of such services by one for another as a course of conduct constitute the practice of law.”

The above paragraph is circular reasoning at best. And obfuscation at worst. Please notice the dates on the citations – 1963 and 1978. I am certain the world has changed in the past 39 or 54 years.

It is clear in the Florida Bar rules that legal document preparers may not refer to themselves as “paralegals” or “legal assistants”. However, some legal document preparers persist in using those monikers anyway, and that use in itself has sometimes been enough to trigger a UPL investigation. A quick look through craigslist will reveal many legal document preparers blithely referring to themselves as paralegals, while others are investigated for UPL for referring to themselves as paralegals. Including phrases like “legal services”, and “legal clinic” in a business name is an invitation to investigation.

I am aware of legal document preparers who have not only been told to refrain from using the word “legal” in their business name, but also to refrain from using the word “legal” anywhere on their website AND to refrain from using the word “legal” in their email address.

I think most of this is over kill. I think most of this is about lawyers and the Florida Bar protecting their turf. If lawyers and the Florida Bar could only understand that document preparers are not trying to steal their business. We don't want their business, we just want to conduct our business. If lawyers went to three years of law school so that they could prepare legal forms, I don't know what to say to them. Document preparers do not want the responsibility of giving legal advice, we leave the choices up to the consumer. And/ or we suggest that the consumer consult with a lawyer every time they have a legal question. Legal document prepaers are often serving people who could not possibly afford an attorney, and without a document preparer would be unlikely to pursue their rights at all.

In the long run, I believe consumers are harmed by the Florida Bar's insistence on persecuting legal document preparers. Many consumers cannot possibly afford an attorney and will go without any sort of legal assistance, if document preparers are not available. The courts benefit when consumers use the services of legal document preparers, because even though the consumer may be unrepresented, the documents are clear and correct.

The Florida Bar's infringement on the rights of legal document preparers to earn a living; to enter contracts; and to provide services in the marketplace; is collateral damage. The actual damage in these laws is to the consumer. It is the consumer who would seek assistance in asserting his rights through the court system who suffers. The court system, fraught with jargon, and complicated procedure; can bring dire consequences to people who can find no help at all.