The Florida Bar v. American Legal & Business Forms, Inc.

Citation274 So.2d 225
Decision Date28 February 1973
Docket NumberNo. 42494,42494
PartiesTHE FLORIDA BAR, Petitioner, v. AMERICAN LEGAL AND BUSINESS FORMS, INC., a Florida corporation and George H. Burch, Respondents,
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Florida

Leonard Rivkind, Miami Beach, Chairman, Unauthorized Practice of Law Committee of The Florida Bar and Richard C. McFarlain, Tallahassee, for The Florida Bar, petitioner.

George H. Burch, in pro. per., for respondents.

DEKLE, Justice.

This cause is before us on the amended petition 1 of The Florida Bar charging American Legal and Business Forms, Inc., a Florida corporation doing business in Miami, Florida, and its Secretary-Treasurer, George H. Burch, with the unauthorized practice of law. Respondent Burch is not a member of The Florida Bar and accordingly cannot practice law in this state. Of course the other respondent as a corporation cannot practice law.

Our jurisdiction to prohibit the unauthorized practice of law stems from organic law. Fla.Const. art. V, § 15 (1973), F.S.A. gives us: 'exclusive jurisdiction to regulate the admission of persons to the practice of law and the discipline of persons admitted.' This constitutional authorization necessarily includes the power to prevent the unauthorized practice of law. 2

In its amended petition, The Florida Bar alleged that respondents engaged in the unauthorized practice of law by selling legal forms outlining the judicial process for securing an uncontested dissolution of marriage under the new law, Fla.Stat. Ch. 61, and giving legal advice on the use of those forms. Specifically, the Bar stated:

'. . . Respondents sold a divorce kit to one Hyacinth Delores White and did complete the same by filling in the blank spaces provided for therein, for use in the Circuit Court of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit in and for Dade County, Florida, in Case No. 72--5571; that Respondents interviewed Mrs. White personally, and received the information necessary to complete the forms; that Respondents were paid the sum of $187.00; that Respondents filed the suit with the Clerk and arranged the publication thereof in a local newspaper . . ..'

and that:

'Respondent, George H. Burch, in his behalf and in behalf of the Respondent, American Legal and Business Forms, Inc., did give legal counsel and advice to one 'Mrs. Ross' in a telephone conversation . . ..'

By court order we required respondents to show cause why they should not be held in contempt of this Court for violation of the Integration Rule, art. II, § 2, 32 F.S.A., which provides:

'No person shall engage in any way in the practice of law in this state unless such person is an active member of The Florida Bar in good standing except that practicing attorney of another state, in good standing, who has professional business in a court of record of this state may, upon motion, be permitted to practice for the purpose of such business only, when it is made to appear that he has associated and appearing with him in such business an active member of The Florida Bar.'

In their response thereto respondents admitted selling Mrs. White legal forms for dissolution of her marriage, but argued that such action does not constitute the practice of law; that they did not give legal advice to Mrs. Ross or to anyone else; that they have never represented themselves to be lawyers; that respondent George H. Burch is an authorized notary public; and that since March 24, 1972, respondents have not engaged in such sale of legal forms; have discontinued business and have no intention of resuming their business and former practices and have so notified The Florida Bar.

Upon a thorough consideration of the amended petition and the response, it appears undisputed that respondents sold to Mrs. White a group of legal forms which are commonly referred to as 'package' forms. The key question for our consideration is whether the selling of such 'package' forms constitutes the practice of law. Last year we said in The Florida Bar v. Teitelman, 261 So.2d 140 (Fla.1972), which involved an attorney's use of legal forms pertaining to the transfer of real property: (p. 143)

'There is no doubt whatever that petitioner's (attorney's) use of the 'package' forms, or any related forms of a legal nature, clearly constitutes the practice of law. The challenge of that fact by an attorney seems almost a reflection upon an understanding of the law and of professional ethics. The suggestion that it is merely a 'scrivener's' task borders on the presumptuous. In the completion of legal forms it is what may be left out as well as that included which can be a very serious consequence. The advices essential to the completion of such documents almost invariably place their completion in the realm of the practice of law.'

We reaffirm this statement and hold that respondents, who are not licensed to practice law in this state, did engage in the unauthorized practice of law in selling these 'package' forms describing the procedure for obtaining a dissolution of marriage.

The printing and sale of legal forms, with nothing more, has been a practice over the years as a convenience. It has been an aid to attorneys, although the sale was not limited to attorneys. Some forms and information regarding them are contained in legal texts. The printing and sale of copies of the state statutes on given subjects is of course a protected right. Forms are sometimes available from the courts, as in the probate of estates and in the filing of small claims, but legal advice on their preparation is not. We perceive no harm to the public (whose protection is the principal concern here), and perhaps a service, in having printed legal forms and copies of statutes...

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9 cases
  • State Bar v. Cramer, 11
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Michigan
    • 1 Noviembre 1975
    ...interests of the person seeking assistance on divorce matters were not properly represented. See, also, The Florida Bar v. American Legal and Business Forms, 274 So.2d 225 (Fla.1973). Concern for the quality of legal representation available to persons seeking a divorce was also expressed i......
  • Dunn v. The Florida Bar, Civ. A. No. 83-243-CIV-J-12.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Florida
    • 30 Agosto 1988
    ...the giving of advice. Florida Bar v. Mills, 398 So.2d 1368 (Fla.1981) See also, The Florida Bar v. American Legal & Business Forms, Inc., 274 So.2d 225 (Fla.1973). In addition, the selection of this Form and its completion to achieve the legal rights sought by the Plaintiff class member is ......
  • Florida Bar v. Brumbaugh, 48803
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • 10 Enero 1978
    ...The Florida Bar argues that the above activities of respondent violate the rulings of this Court in The Florida Bar v. American Legal and Business Forms, Inc., 274 So.2d 225 (Fla.1973), and The Florida Bar v. Stupica, 300 So.2d 683 (Fla.1974). In those decisions we held that it is lawful to......
  • Thompson, In re
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • 18 Diciembre 1978
    ...cases concerning first-amendment rights and the practice of law, reexamined their earlier decisions of Florida Bar v. American Legal and Business Forms, Inc., 274 So.2d 225 (Fla.1973), and Florida Bar v. Stupica, 300 So.2d 683 (Fla.1974). Those prior decisions held that it was not the unaut......
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