Court orders Ft. Lauderdale man to stop practicing law without a license

first_img Court orders Ft. Lauderdale man to stop practicing law without a license Finding that Brian Neiman has “extensively engaged in the unlicensed practice of law” the Florida Supreme Court enjoined him and his corporation from such practice in the future.Acting May 2 in case no. SC94738, the court said Neiman, a self-described paralegal in Ft. Lauderdale, has improperly engaged in UPL for profit for years and that his activities failed the “duck” test.“That is, in common parlance, one would expect that if it looks like a duck, and walks, talks, and acts like a duck, one can usually safely assume it is a duck,” the court said. “Unfortunately, while Neiman at all times acted like an educated and licensed lawyer, he was not. And, just as the public must be protected from uneducated and unlicensed physicians in an operating room, the public must be protected from bogus attorneys seeking to profit from the problems of the innocent and uninformed with serious personal and legal problems who may be taken in by a smooth but deceitful demeanor.”The Florida Bar filed a 22-count petition alleging Neiman repeatedly engaged in UPL over a period of approximately seven years. After 21 days of hearings, the referee made detailed findings that Neiman performed acts commonly understood to be the practice of law, including: serving as a primary contact for conferences on legal disputes; holding himself out as an attorney in dealings with others; attempting to argue and advocate the merits of cases, the applicability of the law, evidentiary issues, liability issues, discovery matters, and settlement matters with opposing counsel; attempting to analyze statutory and case law and to discuss it with clients and opposing counsel; trying to advise clients on the strengths and weaknesses of their cases and on how to proceed; actively participating in and presenting clients’ cases at mediation sessions; actively participating in and presenting the complainants’ cases at settlement sessions; extensively involving himself with fee arrangements; attempting to advise clients of their obligations under legal documents; drafting detailed letters and legal documents; signing court-filed documents; and discussing legal documents with clients without any attorney present.In 1999, Neiman entered a plea of nolo contendere to five criminal misdemeanor counts of the unlicensed practice of law.Before the referee, however, Neiman claimed his conduct was nothing more than “relaying information” from his employing attorney to other parties. However, the referee rejected that characterization and numerous witnesses testified that Neiman held himself out as an attorney, argued legal issues, and forcefully participated in settlement negotiations, the court said.The referee also said Neiman’s earnings alone were indicative of his role in these cases, noting Neiman personally received hundreds of thousands of dollars in compensation.“For example, the record reflects that in 1995, Neiman personally grossed over $1.4 million in salary from his law-related activities,” the court said. “In 1996, Neiman, who was on probation for a criminal fraud conviction, actually reported to his probation officer that his income was $50,000 per month. A year later, he reported his income as $1 million to $1.5 million annually.”The referee found, and the court agreed, that Neiman had not been properly acting as a paralegal. Rather, Neiman appeared to be a businessman who was trying to use his association with a law firm to run a lucrative business, the court said.The court ordered Neiman to pay $28,726.16 in costs. Court orders Ft. Lauderdale man to stop practicing law without a licensecenter_img June 1, 2002 Regular Newslast_img

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