The Florida Bar v. Furman

After reading The Florida Bar v. Furman (see below), what specific acts of the Respondent constitute the unauthorized practice of law? What are your thoughts on the unauthorized practice of law?

Short Essay

200 words

The Florida Bar v. Furman

Supreme Court of Florida

May 10, 1979

THE FLORIDA BAR, Petitioner,


Rosemary W. FURMAN, etc., Respondent.

On Rehearing and Opinion Clarified Nov. 1, 1979.

Bernard H. Dempsey, Jr., Chairman, Standing Committee on Unauthorized Practice of Law, Orlando, Lacy Mahon, Jr., Bar Counsel, Jacksonville, and H. Glenn Boggs, II and John A. Weiss, Asst. Staff Counsels, Tallahassee, for petitioner.

Albert J. Hadeed, Southern Legal Counsel, Inc., Gainesville, and Alan B. Morrison, pro hac vice, Washington, D. C., for respondent.

William H. Adams, III, Jacksonville, for amicus curiae.


The Florida Bar has petitioned this Court to enjoin Rosemary W. Furman, d/b/a Northside Secretarial Service, from unauthorized practice of law in the State of Florida. Our jurisdiction to rule in this matter is provided by article V, section 15 of the Florida Constitution and by The Florida Bar Integration Rule, article XVI. We find the activities of the respondent to constitute the practice of law and permanently enjoin her from the further unauthorized practice of law.

The Florida Bar alleged, through an amended petition dated September 23, 1977, that Furman, a non-lawyer, engaged in the unauthorized practice of law by giving legal advice and by rendering legal services in connection with marriage dissolutions and adoptions in the years 1976 and 1977. The bar specifically alleges that Furman performed legal services for at least seven customers by soliciting information from them and preparing pleadings in violation of Florida law. The bar further contends that through advertising in the Jacksonville Journal, a newspaper of general circulation, Furman held herself out to the public as having legal expertise in Florida family law and sold “do-it-yourself divorce kits.” The bar does not contend that Furman held herself out to be a lawyer, that her customers suffered any harm as a result of the services rendered, or that she has failed to perform the services for which she was paid.

In describing her activities, Furman states that she does not give legal advice, that she does prepare pleadings that meet the desires of her clients, that she charges no more than $50 for her services, and that her assistance to customers is in aid of their obtaining self-representative relief from the courts. In general, the respondent alleges as a defense that the ruling of this court in Florida Bar v. Brumbaugh, 355 So.2d 1186 (Fla.1978), violates the first amendment to the United States Constitution by restricting her right to disseminate and the right of her customers to receive information which would allow indigent litigants access to the state’s domestic relations courts. She alleges that our holding in Brumbaugh is so narrow that it deprives citizens who are indigent of equal protection of the laws as provided by the Florida and United States constitutions.

When this case was at issue, we referred it to retired Circuit Judge P. B. Revels of the Seventh Judicial Circuit, one of Florida’s most experienced trial judges, to serve as referee. The referee has filed his report which, in pertinent part, indicates:

A. That the Respondent, Rosemary W. Furman, d/b/a Northside Secretarial Service, is the sole proprietor and owner of said secretarial service. The Northside Secretarial Service has never registered under the fictitious name law.

B. Respondent has never received any legal training or education; is not now nor ever been a licensed attorney of law of the State of Florida or elsewhere; that she is not now and never has been a member of The Florida Bar.

D. That the Respondent under the guise of secretarial services for a fee prepares all papers considered by her to be necessary for the filing and securing a dissolution of marriage, as well as detailed instructions as to how the papers should be filed, service secured, hearings set and a briefing session as to the questions and answers to be offered at the trial of the case before the Court and for entry of Final Judgment of Dissolution.

E. The Respondent admitted, when a person comes to her place of business, they state they want to get a divorce or they want her to help them get a divorce, although many of the people deposed insisted that they only asked that she type papers to enable them to obtain the divorce. So after some discussion, the customer is provided with the appropriate intake sheet for the facts listed at the first visit either Respondent’s Exhibit 11 or 12. In addition to the intake sheet the Respondent furnishes papers outlining the legal steps, the law and the procedures, as shown by Respondent’s Exhibits 13, 14 and 15, advising them to read the matter and it will help them in filling out the intake sheet.

F. The Respondent admits that the customer returns with the intake sheet not completed, because the people are unfamiliar with the legal terms and some are illiterate and, of course, she then proceeds to ask questions to complete the intake sheet for preparing the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. Then after she types the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, she advises the customer to take the papers for filing to the Office of the Clerk of Circuit Court, and Respondent follows the progress of the case every step of the way until it is at issue. She then notifies the customer to come in for a briefing session preferably the day before the date set for trial. In the course of briefing Respondent furnishes the customer with a diagram of the Court chambers and where to find the Judge to which that particular case has been assigned. A copy of the diagram of chambers that she furnishes to the customer is shown by Respondent’s Exhibit 10. She also explains the full procedure that will take place before the Judge, including the questions the customer should ask the customer and the resident witness. A copy of same is shown by Respondent’s Exhibit 20. The facts in the record of this case establish very clearly that the Respondent performs every essential step in the legal proceedings to obtain a dissolution of marriage, except taking the papers and filing them in the Clerk’s office and going with the customer to the final hearing and interrogating the witness.

Last Updated on February 11, 2019 by EssayPro