Some Notaries Pretending To Be Lawyers

If lawyers are agents for the devil, what does that make fake lawyers? Specifically, what about those con artists who prey on a vulnerable segment of the population? Poor immigrants, often in high stress situations, are finding themselves targets of unscrupulous quasi-advocates who take full advantage of their shaky (if at all existent) grasp of the English language and lack of familiarity with the American legal system.

In addition to the outright frauds, notaries make up a growing segment of the fake lawyer population. These schemers take full advantage of cultural confusion arising out of their title and role and allowing themselves to be hired as counsel. In certain Latin American countries, “notarios” may actually handle some level of legal representation. Instead of clarifying their role as American notaries, some have opted to run with it: Accepting clients, filling out paperwork, offering competitive legal rates and giving clients the answers they want to hear rather than the ones an actual immigration attorney would give.

The plight of poor immigrants facing various issues in immigration court remains an ongoing problem. As it’s not criminal court, they’re not entitled to free legal representation and a lack of attorney supply had led to courts allowing non-lawyers to step in—sometimes with disastrous results when lay people get in way over their head in caseloads and legal ability. The increase in fake lawyers out to bilk fees from the desperate is the darker side of a story that is not going away.

(picture: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Freiheitsstatue_NY_Mai_2009_PD_009.JPG )

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  • SULLC

    It is true that in legal countries, “notarios” perform legal work; due to the fact that “notarios” have to be lawyers. Notary’s in certain latin countries like Mexico, Cuba, Dominican Republics, Puerto Rico etc., have to be lawyers because these “notarios” perform legal duties which include and not limited to attending mortgage issues like drafting the deeds and these have to be signed and sealed by an Attorney-Notary; they also act a a quasi governmental agent because they assure that these documents comply with current law. All per-nuptial agreements for them to be legal and valid have to be prepared and signed by a attorney-notary; as well as wills and trusts etc.

    One can be just an attorney in these countries and perform routine legal work as trial works and such. But for legal documents such as the ones briefly described above, you need to have your notary license which includes a separate bar exam and the pre requisite of being a licensed attorney.

    Now, I am in accordance with you of the confusion these scam artists are doing. They abuse these indigent, not so well informed immigrants who come from a latin country and are taken for all they’ve got which in their cases is very little.

    Just wanted to clarify the difference between these professions in the US and latin culture.

  • The same is true in European civil law countries. German Notars are transactional attorneys that draft deeds, wills and anything that is filed with the government. Their offices also service to notarize documents in a similar fashion as US notaries. Notars generally have doctorates or other post-law degree education and are the cream-of-the-crop, as the number of Notars in a certain area are usually limited by the state, resulting in high demand for their specialized services.

    The problem of non-attorney notarios scamming clients in US jurisdictions highlights how different countries have unique legal systems and the pitfalls for transnationals dealing in various jurisdicitions.

    • SULLC

      Jennifer: that is true. these attorney-notary are from countries with a Civil Law based. These established following a Code System established by the Napoleonic Code, then adopted by other European Countries such as Germany, Spain and expanded to their colonies in the “New World”. Notary Law in these countries is very regulated and is a specialized practice.

  • As far as immigrants being at a disadvantage, it is unfortunate that this is occurring around the country. Any impersonation of a legal professional is (and should be) subject to regulatory infraction, and I hope that investigations continue to bring these charletans to justice. Impersonate a lawyer at your own risk.