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Abstract 96/97-12

Summary of Facts Provided

An attorney represents a collection agency. Accounts are assigned to the agency by its customers. The attorney has no interest in the accounts acquired by the agency. The non-attorney staff of the agency handles negotiations with debtors and other aspects of the collection of claims. Non-attorney staff also prepare pleadings for cases against debtors. The attorney's involvement is limited to signing pleadings, conducting trials and enforcing judgments.

Issues and Conclusions

Is the attorney aiding the collection agency in the unauthorized practice of law?

The attorney may sign pleadings drafted by non-attorneys if the attorney reviews the pleadings before signing them. Colorado Rule 1.1 (requiring competent representation); Colorado Rule 1.3 (requiring reasonable diligence). Under Colorado Rule 5.3, the attorney may not delegate work for which the attorney is responsible to persons who are not under the attorney's control and supervision.

The attorney may be aiding the collection agency in the unauthorized practice of law if the work of the agency's non-attorney staff constitutes the practice of law. Colorado Rule 5.4 requires the attorney to maintain professional independence. See also, CBA Formal Ethics Opinion 25, dated August 25, 1962.