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 )