- Practice of law
In its most general sense, the practice of law involves giving
legal adviceto clients, drafting legal documents for clients, and representing clients in legal negotiations and courtproceedings such as lawsuits, and is applied to the professional services of a lawyeror 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, the practice of law is conditioned upon admission to the bar of a particular state or other territorial jurisdiction. The American Bar Associationand the American Law Instituteare 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 Arizonafor 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, Texaslaw 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 [http://tlo2.tlc.state.tx.us/statutes/docs/PE/content/htm/pe.008.00.000038.00.htm state.tx.us] ] 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 protectionlaws, 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
Admission to the bar
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