Ticket-fighting app was engaged in unauthorized law practice, top state court rules

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An app that connected traffic-ticket defendants with lawyers was engaged in the unauthorized practice of law, the Florida Supreme Court ruled Thursday in a 4-3 decision.

The court ruled against the now-defunct company, TIKD Services, and nonlawyer Christopher Riley, its founder and CEO.

Law360, the Legal Profession Blog, the Associated Press and Bloomberg Law have coverage of the Oct. 14 decision.

Drivers using the TIKD app uploaded pictures of their traffic tickets, paid TIKD a fixed percentage of the ticket’s face value, and had their contact information forwarded to a licensed attorney who received a flat fee from TIKD to provide the ticket defense. TIKD paid all costs associated with defending the case and gave a full refund if points were assessed against a driver’s license.

TIKD’s business model capitalized on an unusually high rate of traffic citation dismissals in the jurisdictions where it operated, the state supreme court said.

The Florida Bar had sued TIKD and lost in an initial round when a referee found no unlicensed practice because the app offered only administrative and financial services.

The Florida Supreme Court disagreed with the referee.

“As a nonlawyer, TIKD simply lacks the skill or training to ensure the quality of the legal services provided to the public through the licensed attorneys it contracts with, nor does it possess the ability to ensure compliance with the Rules of Professional Conduct,” the Florida Supreme Court said in an opinion by Judge Alan Lawson.

Two judges joined the opinion, and another concurred in the result.

Lawson cited these additional factors supporting an unauthorized practice finding:

• TIKD’s services have the potential to substantially affect whether a driver receives timely and quality legal representation, affecting the driver’s rights under the law.

• TIKD collects money upfront from its clients that would have to be held in trust if collected by a lawyer.

• There is a risk that a nonlawyer company’s profit motive will conflict with the professional obligation of lawyers to act in their clients’ best interests.

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