New App Fights Parking Tickets for You, but It's 'Not an Attorney'
Until recently, at least one company thought you could share your San Francisco public parking space, but the San Francisco City Attorney quickly put that one to bed, as SF Weekly reported.
It's too soon to be sharing our underwear and kidneys -- the inevitable endpoint of our dystopian future -- but a new app called Fixed is here to help you fight your parking tickets. That's a nice service, but is it legal?
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How Fixed Works
TechCrunch described how the app works: With Fixed, once you get a parking ticket, you take a photo of the ticket with an app for your smartphone, then Fixed tells you the probability of getting the ticket dismissed. If you want to fight the ticket, Fixed prepares a stock "contest letter," has you digitally sign it, mails it, and takes care of everything. If you win, Fixed charges you 25 percent of what you would have paid in fines. If you lose, you pay nothing -- well, to Fixed, anyway.
Fixed hasn't yet seen the same wrath that Monkey Parking provoked from the City Attorney's office, but that doesn't mean it's not forthcoming. The app's co-founder, David Hegarty, implied to TechCrunch that San Francisco likes a Byzantine, inefficient ticket contest system, which allows the city to prevail by taking a carefree attitude toward state and municipal contest procedures.
In a passive-aggressive show of force, the city shut off the fax machine to which Fixed was sending contest letters, Hegarty said.
A Lawyer by Any Other Name...
Still, mailing in, and handling, all the ticket paperwork comes dangerously close to practicing law. After all, appealing a parking ticket is a legal matter.
On Fixed's website, it proclaims, "We built a team of experts that know the parking rules inside-out." Are these "experts" called lawyers, by any chance? (Why yes they are, says Gizmodo -- though CNN calls them "legal researchers.")
Fixed is at least thinking about the issue. At the very bottom of its homepage, in squinty-point font that closely matches the color of the background (in the interest of full disclosure, you see), reads a disclaimer: "Fixed is not a law firm. Your parking advocate is not an attorney. Communications do not constitute legal advice. The service is not available in the State of Georgia."
If Fixed itself is researching the law and filing contests on behalf of its customers, then there may arguably be an attorney-client relationship, Fixed may arguably be considered a law firm, and the State Bar of California may start furrowing its brow, as the North Carolina bar did with LegalZoom.
So before your client starts building that "disruptive" kidney-sharing app, check to make sure it's legal. Or at least get one of Fixed's "legal researchers" to look into it.
- Can We Stop Pretending the Sharing Economy Is All About Sharing? (Time)
- Ca. Appeals Court Says Handicap Parking Laws Not Unlimited (FindLaw's California Case Law Blog)
- There's An App For That: Top 10 Apps for Law Students (FindLaw's Technologist)
- Washington State AG: 'DIY Legal Forms Aren't a Substitute for an Attorney' (FindLaw's Strategist)
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