Practice of law

Practice of law

In its most general sense, the practice of law involves giving legal advice to clients, drafting legal documents for clients, and representing clients in legal negotiations and court proceedings such as lawsuits, and is applied to the professional services of a lawyer or attorney at law, barrister, solicitor, or civil law notary. However, there is a substantial amount of overlap between the practice of law and various other professions where clients are represented by agents. These professions include real estate, banking, accounting, and insurance. Moreover, a growing number of legal document assistants (LDAs) are offering services which have traditionally been offered only by lawyers and their employee paralegals. Many documents may now be created by computer-assisted drafting libraries, where the clients are asked a series of questions posed by the software in order to construct the legal documents.

United States

In the United States, the practice of law is conditioned upon admission to the bar of a particular state or other territorial jurisdiction. The American Bar Association and the American Law Institute are among the organizations that are concerned with the interests of lawyers as a profession and the promulgation of uniform standards of professionalism and ethics, but regulation of the practice of law is left to the individual states. Practice of law is mandatory upon completing a law degree and the state bar exam in order to gain work experience.

"Unauthorized practice of law" (UPL) is prohibited in every stateFact|date=March 2007 by statute, regulation, or court rules. [The practice of law was not formally regulated in Arizona for a time. However, the Arizona Supreme Court found independent inherent authority to regulate the practice of law, "In re Creasy", 198 Ariz. 539 (2000). See generally Jonathan Rose, "Unauthorized Practice of Law in Arizona: A Legal and Political Problem That Won't Go Away", 34 Ariz. St. L.J. 585. Arizona's statute criminalizing unauthorized practice of law was allowed to lapse from a sunset law in 1985. Rose suggests that legislative proposals to recriminalize the unauthorized practice of law have heretofore failed because of anti-lawyer sentiment in Arizona politics. "Id." at 593. Moreover, Rose asserts that resentment lingers from an unpopular interpretation of the old statute in "State Bar v. Arizona Land Title & Trust Co.", 90 Ariz. 76 (1961). This ruling sanctioned a title and realty company engaged in drafting contracts. Rose says, "Throughout the country, various jurisdictions have developed numerous tests for defining the practice of law. But none is broader nor more all-encompassing than that articulated in "Arizona Title"." Rose at 588.] For example, Texas law generally prohibits a person who is not an attorney from representing a client in a personal injury or property damage matter, and punishes a violation as a misdemeanor. [Tex. Gov’t Code sec. 38.123. Chapter 38 of the penal code, containing 38.122 and 38.123, is available from [] ] Some states also criminalize the separate behavior of falsely claiming to be lawyer (in Texas, for example, this is a felony). [Tex. Gov’t Code sec. 38.122]

Interpretations of the term "unauthorized practice of law" vary among jurisdictions. For example, the use of legal document assistants (LDAs) in California is tolerated to a high degree. Many of the activities LDAs perform in California would be considered the "unauthorized practice of law" if performed in New York.

Most unauthorized practice of law may be unintentional.Fact|date=July 2007 Probably the most common violators are accountants, paralegals, notaries public, and people who formerly worked for an attorney. Many times what seems to them to be "common knowledge" or "just helping out a friend" in fact crosses the line into practice of law. For instance, many accountants who represent small businesses (This would be more accurate to say corporations.) will "fill out some forms" to create a corporation. They are drafting legal documents, which requires a law license.Fact|date=July 2007 A notary public who reads instructions, asks questions, and tells a person which forms to use and how to fill them out may be giving legal advice.Fact|date=July 2007 Buying a legal form in a store and helping a friend fill it out involves giving legal advice and drafting legal documents.Fact|date=July 2007

In most states, unauthorized practice of law is a criminal offense.However, while there are cases of individuals being prosecuted for the unauthorized practice of law, absent fraud, theft, or serious violations of consumer protection laws, common practice is simply to explain to the person that the questioned activities constituted unauthorized practice of law and get an agreement that the person will desist. fact|date=October 2008


ee also

*Admission to the bar
*Law degree

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • practice of law — The professional tasks performed by lawyers in their offices or in court on a day today basis. With the growth of specialization, it has become difficult to generalize about the practice of law. Nevertheless, common elements can be identified in… …   Law dictionary

  • practice of law — noun the learned profession that is mastered by graduate study in a law school and that is responsible for the judicial system he studied law at Yale • Syn: ↑law • Derivationally related forms: ↑lawyer (for: ↑law) • …   Useful english dictionary

  • practice of law — Rendering the services peculiar to the profession. The work of an attorney at law in the preparation of pleadings and other papers incident to actions and special proceedings, the management of such actions and proceedings on behalf of clients… …   Ballentine's law dictionary

  • It is far better to have less learning and more moral character in the practice of law than it is to have great learning and no morals. — It is far better to have less learning and more moral character in the practice of law than it is to have great learning and no morals. It is far better to have less learning and more moral character in the practice of law than it is to have… …   Law dictionary

  • remove from the practice of law — index disbar Burton s Legal Thesaurus. William C. Burton. 2006 …   Law dictionary

  • suspend from the practice of law — index disbar Burton s Legal Thesaurus. William C. Burton. 2006 …   Law dictionary

  • unauthorized practice of law — Conducting the practice of law without the license required by law. 7 Am J2d Attys § 73 …   Ballentine's law dictionary

  • established a practice of law — set a legal precedent, published a decision having validity at some future date …   English contemporary dictionary

  • corporate practice of law, medicine, etc — See professional corporation …   Ballentine's law dictionary

  • practice — prac·tice n 1: the form and manner of conducting judicial and quasi judicial proceedings 2 a: the continuous exercise of a profession; also: the performance of services that are considered to require an appropriate license engaged in the… …   Law dictionary

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”