Can a Non-Lawyer Represent Me?
Many investors are surprised to learn that they typically cannot bring
their claims against brokerage firms in court, but instead pursue their
claims in binding arbitration through the Financial Industry Regulatory
Authority, known as FINRA.
Arbitration against brokerage firms is mandatory based on arbitration clauses
that are contained in almost every brokerage firm agreement that customers
sign. Because arbitration is considered a private process, and not a legal
proceeding, it is possible in some circumstances for non-lawyers to represent
investors, and effectively act as legal counsel, even though they are
not actually licensed to practice law.
In recent years, various businesses that are comprised of non-lawyers have
been marketing themselves to investors as an alternative to hiring a traditional
lawyer to represent them in brokerage firm disputes in FINRA arbitration.
In our many years of experience representing investors, we can tell you
that cases against brokerage firms are complicated, and involve many different
legal issues. We believe that investors make a big mistake when they hire
non-lawyers to represent them in FINRA arbitration.
Historically, arbitrators use customs and norms to resolve these disputes,
but today, arbitration is very different. Complex statutory claims and
sophisticated legal arguments are often an issue. The more complex the
case, the more likely it is that the parties are involved in expansive
discovery practice and pre-hearing motions. FINRA arbitration in particular
has evolved into a complex legal process. Most FINRA arbitrators are lawyers,
and most arbitration hearings most closely resemble a trial you see in
court – opening statements, examinations, cross-examination of witnesses,
evidentiary objections, and closing arguments.
Tellingly, in all the cases where we have represented investors, we have
never encountered a non-lawyer representing a brokerage firm. In every
case, an experienced securities arbitration attorney has defended the
brokerage firm against our clients’ claims. You should demand the
same level of skill, knowledge, and experience for yourself.