KM&A Files An Unlicensed Practice Of Law Complaint Against A Non-Attorney Florida Man, Spencer Cohn
In most states, including Pennsylvania, a non-attorney agent may represent a claimant in an unemployment benefit appeal hearing. This was implemented because of the idea that businesses could afford an attorney while a recently terminated employee could not. Many attorneys have criticized this practice because the appeal hearings stringently apply evidentiary and other legal standards and practices. Everything about unemployment hearings includes the practice of law, but states have carved out an exception where a non-attorney may undertake a claimants representation without it being considered the practice of law. To be blunt, this intentional cognitive dissonance allows people to be injured by non-attorneys.
Times have changed. There is no need for this doublespeak since law firms like KM&A now offer low income contingency based representation.
Lawyers are extremely critical of untrained and unlicensed practitioners because they do not possess the same qualifications and legal skill that so important in unemployment hearings. The result is that unregulated and unqualified people market themselves as a cheap and quick fix to your unemployment needs. Years of graduate education, certifications, practical experience, continuing education, state regulation, and ethical duties are just part of the package a person receives when they hire a licensed unemployment lawyer. Removing any of these components may seriously jeopardize the quality of your representation. We are therefore advising that anyone considering non-attorney representation take extreme caution.
KM&A was recently alerted that when people were searching for an unemployment lawyer, they came across a Florida man named Spencer Cohen offering extremely discounted unemployment legal representation. When we investigated, we found that his webpage, front and center, stated,
“You might be able to handle the unemployment appeal by yourself, however, our experienced unemployment lawyer can navigate through all he intricacies and nuanaces in the unemployment law you might not be aware of. We will file an appeal for you if you haven’t already done so and instruct you what to say as well as represent you during your hearing.”
On the right hand side, you can see the image for yourself.
We were confused as to how a Florida attorney could advertise their legal services in the state of Pennsylvania in which they did not hold a license. Out of curiosity, we contacted Spencer Cohn to see how this was possible. To our shock, we learned that he was not bar certified at all. In fact, we did not even check the Florida attorney registry until we had already contacted Spencer Cohn.
Would the average person be easily confused? If so, holding oneself out as an attorney when not licensed is generally considered “unauthorized practice of law.”
KM&A immediately requested that Spencer Cohn cease and desist (1) holding himself out as an attorney, (2) advertising with the term lawyer, and (3) cease targeting Pennsylvania residents offering legal services. Spencer Cohn responded by insisting that he was a lawyer because he finished law school, albeit not passing the bar and licensed by any state.
KM&A therefore has filed an unlicensed practice of law complaint against Spencer Cohn.
Here is an excerpt of the letter from the Florida Bar,
“You are not a licensed attorney in the state of Florida. The Complainant alleges that you are not licensed to practice law in any state, and I do not see any information which disputes that on the website. If you are licensed in another state, please provide your state of licensure in your response. I understand that Florida law authorizes nonattomey representation of claimants in unemployment matters, and that you are not required to be a licensed Florida attorney in order to offer services within the boundaries set by the Florida Administrative Code. However, it does constitute unlicensed practice of law in Florida for a nonattomey, even if offering services within an authorized area of the law, to hold oneself out as an attorney or lawyer. The Florida Bar v. Kaiser, 397 So. 2d 1132 (Fla. 1981). In reviewing your website, I find there are remaining statements and verbiage which could be construed to hold you out as an attorney and be misleading to the public.”
You can read the full letter here.
The point of this article is to warn the public about non-attorney unemployment representation. Although we mentioned the benefits of hiring an actual attorney, let us reiterate that part of being licensed and regulated is being held to ethical standards. Breaching these standards will result in a loss of license. When using a non-attorney you have no idea of the ethics violations, history, or complaints against the representative. For example, if an attorney at KM&A was offering legal services in Florida, a state in which we do not practice, you would easily be able to look up public information about the sanctions imposed by the Pennsylvania Bar Association.
If your unemployment benefits are important, you are well advised to contact a real unemployment attorney.