I'm watching Better Call Saul right now and I'm at the bit where

Jimmy is suspended and Kim gets in a car accident.

It got me thinking: if someone were disbarred, would it be legal under US law for them to do act as a disabled lawyer's eyes or hands? Or would this in effect be practicing law without a license even if they are under direct instruction?


1 Answer 1


In New Mexico, where Better Call Saul is set, N.M. R. Prof'l. Cond. 16-505 prohibits an attorney from employing a suspended or disbarred attorney as a law clerk or paralegal only if there is an order from the New Mexico Supreme Court or its disciplinary board prohibiting that appointment. I don't believe the show ever indicates there was such an order.

Other states have different rules. Some prohibit this type of activity altogether, while others permit an attorney to continue as a paralegal while suspended, but not after being disbarred. I believe some states merely require that the attorney disclose that she is using the services of an attorney who is under discipline.

  • 7
    Arguably, serving as a mere "scribe" & literally taking dictation for an attorney or reading aloud to an attorney as the attorneys' "eyes" and/or "hand" without doing anything else, doesn't even amount to law clerk & paralegal work, both of which call for some professional discretion, albeit under the supervision of an attorney & might not be subject to the same regulations. Incidentally, while true "scribe" positions are rare in a law firms (but court reporting firms are common & secretaries that took dictation used to be), a scribe is a common position in hospitals and busy medical offices.
    – ohwilleke
    Feb 14, 2023 at 19:59
  • 3
    The issue in New Mexico is whether working as a scribe is work "in any other position of a quasi-legal nature". I can see arguments each way. On one hand, serving as a scribe in a law office benefits from an ability to correctly spell, write down and pronounce legal terms and phrases (better than dictation software and spell check features in word processors even). But there is nothing unique to the practice of law about taking dictation or reading things aloud for the visually impaired. I've personally done both in a non-legal capacity.
    – ohwilleke
    Feb 14, 2023 at 20:10
  • 5
    Agreed all around. The line between law clerk and paralegal is hardly clear to begin with, but assuming that there exist still other law firm jobs that are "quasi-legal" creates what I would categorize an unacceptable risk for the firm and the disciplined attorney. I'd only be exaggerating a little if I said I'd advise against his employment at the firm for anything other than manual labor.
    – bdb484
    Feb 14, 2023 at 20:43
  • The term "law clerk" has two predominant meanings: (1) a law school student or law school graduate who has not yet passed the bar exam who is employed to do paralegal work generally involving at least some legal research, and (2) a legally trained support person (usually at least a law school graduate and often someone admitted to the practice of law) for a judge. I can't say that I've ever seen the term used in any other situations.
    – ohwilleke
    Feb 14, 2023 at 20:59

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