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                                         117 N.J.L.J. 258
                                        February 27, 1986


Appointed by the Supreme Court of New Jersey


Practice of Law by
Non-Lawyer Employees
of County Welfare Agencies

    The inquiry was submitted by in-house attorneys employed by a county welfare agency, asking whether in cases requiring the filing of a complaint for support, an appearance at a settlement conference, negotiations with a defendant concerning support, signing a consent order, a court appearance if the matter is not settled, and appearances in court on enforcement of orders by non-attorney employees of the county welfare agencies, there is a violation of law and a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct.
    From the facts stated, it is apparent that non-attorney employees of the county welfare agencies have been performing services which historically have been performed only by lawyers.
    However, the Supreme Court of New Jersey adopted R. 1:21-l(e) on July 22, 1983, to be effective September 12, 1983.
    R. 1:21 et seq., defines who may practice law and appear in court and R. 1:21(e) reads as follows:
        (e) Subject to such limitations and procedural rules as may be established by the Office of Administrative Law, an appearance by a non-attorney in a contested case before the Office of Administrative Law may be permitted, on application, in any of the following circumstances:


    (3) to represent a county welfare agency if County Counsel does not provide representation in the particular matter and the non-attorney representative is an employee of the agency with special expertise or experience in the matter of controversy.

    The comments to the New Jersey Court Rules (1985) beginning with paragraph five at the bottom of page 154, read as follows:
        Paragraph (e) is a new provision adopted effective September 1983, applicable only to contested cases before the Office of Administrative Law and permitting limited representation of litigants by non-lawyers subject to the qualifications of the rule. First the rule requires that the OAL promulgate procedural rules to implement the scheme and further requires that an individual application to permit such representation be made. The situations in which such an application may be granted are limited to those set forth in the rule, which are largely self-explanatory. Finally, the representative may not receive any special compensation for the representation and may not be a disbarred or suspended attorney. As stated by the 1983 Report of the Civil Practice Committee which proposed the rule, its intent is to "enumerate those situations in which the public interest would be served by allowing non-attorneys to appear in contested cases, and in which the dangers posed by such representation would be absent or substantially minimized." See 111 N.J.L.J. Index Page 669 (1983). (emphasis added)

    The Rules under the New Jersey Administrative Code rely to a large extent upon R. 1:21-l(e)(3).
    N.J.A.C. 1:1-3.7 et seq. pertaining to Appearances an~ Representation reads as follows:
        (a) A party may represent him or herself, be represented by an attorney authorized to practice law in this State, or, subject to N.J.A.C. 1:1-3.12 and N.J.A.C. 1:1-3.13 be represented or assisted by a non-lawyer permitted to make an appearance in a contested case by R. 1:21-l(e).

    N.J.A.C. 1:1-3.12 is entitled:

    Representation and assistance by non-lawyers; authorized situations, applications, notice of appearance, approval procedures, limitations, practice requirements.

We interpret R. 1:21-l(e) as granting to non-lawyers and county or municipal welfare agency employees the privilege to represent or assist a party in a contested case hearing before the Office of Administrative Law; but it does not extend the privilege to any other civil jurisdiction such as the Superior Court, including the Family Division.

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