California Bar and LegalMatch settle legal opinion lawsuit (1)

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LegalMatch.com and the California Bar have reached an agreement to end their years-long battle over who can provide legal advice in the state, according to a filing Monday in San Francisco Superior Court.

Judge Ethan Schulman in a page order canceled a hearing scheduled for Tuesday in the lawsuit the state bar filed against the Legal Guidance Service in 2020.

The settlement comes as the California Legislature approved the annual fee bill (AB 2958) that would prevent the prohibition from advancing any initiative to expand the scope of practice of paralegals or explore the corporate ownership of law firms.

“The Office of the General Counsel is still working on the settlement agreement with the affected parties,” the bar association said in an emailed statement. “Ultimately, the successful resolution of this case speaks to the breadth of the state bar’s multifaceted work to protect the public. If so, we can and will actively regulate attorney referral services and seek civil penalties against unlicensed LRS wherever we find them.

LegalMatch.com representatives did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment. Festivities in May case management statement said they continue to meet in mediation sessions.

LegalMatch was certified as a lawyer referral service effective Sept. 11, 2020, which effectively prompted the state bar’s request for an injunction, according to court documents. The only issues remaining in this case are the imposition of an appropriate civil penalty and reimbursement of reasonable state bar expenses.

Heavily litigious case with amended complaints and LegalMatch’s three cross-complaints follows California Court of Appeals holding that LegalMatch operates as an unlicensed attorney referral service in violation of the California Business and Professions Code Section 6155(a). The appeal decision arose out of a lawsuit LegalMatch brought against an individual for allegedly failing to pay subscription fees for the service.

Law societies across the country are struggling to increase access to lawyers and regulate legal practice while embracing technological innovation.

The deal is California State Bar v. LegalMatch.com, Cal. Great. Ct., No. GCG-20-584278, hearing canceled 8/22/22.

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