VIRGINIA UPL OPINION 139
Preparation of Liens for Condominium Assessments and Preparation of Lien Releases.
You have requested that the Committee advise whether a non-lawyer i.e., a company providing management services to a condominium association, may prepare and file liens on behalf of the association where the unit owners’ association has authority to file such liens under Section 55-79.84 and 55-516 of the Code of Virginia. In addition, you have asked whether a non-lawyer may prepare lien releases under the same Code sections.
The Committee is the opinion that the Definition of the Practice of Law, as articulated in Part Six: Section I (B)(2) of the Rules of the Supreme Court of Virginia, is applicable to the circumstances you describe. The pertinent Definition provides that:
“One is deemed to be practicing law whenever one, other than as a regular employee acting for his employer, undertakes, with or without compensation, to prepare for another legal instruments of any character . . . .???
The Committee is of the opinion that the contractual relationship between a condominium association and a management organization does not constitute the regular employee/employer relationship envisioned by the Definition. Furthermore, the Committee believes that the completion of liens as outlined in the applicable Code sections, including the drafting of viable legal description of the lot or unit, requires the use and application of legal judgment. Thus, it is the Committee’s opinion that the preparation of liens for assessments constitutes the practice of law and may not be undertaken by a non-lawyer.
Under the facts you have presented, however, the Committee is of the opinion that a non-lawyer’s preparation of lien releases does not constitute the unauthorized practice of law if such preparation is merely ministerial in nature, requires only the insertion of brief descriptive information, and does not require the application of legal judgment to facts.Committee Opinion
October 5, 1990
Updated: Aug 28, 2006