Copyright

Unauthorized Practice of Law: Definition & Consequences

Instructor: Ian Lord

Ian is a real estate investor, MBA, former health professions educator, and Air Force veteran.

This lesson will explore how the 'unauthorized practice of law' concept limits who can act as an attorney. The consequences for those who engage in unauthorized practice of law will also be examined. A brief quiz follows the lesson.

Unauthorized Practice of Law: Definition

According to Black's Law Dictionary, the unauthorized practice of law is 'The practice of law by a person, typically a non-lawyer, who has not been licensed or admitted to practice law in a given jurisdiction.' The exact interpretation of this varies by state. The general principle holds that someone who is unlicensed may not do the same job a lawyer would for money. This includes writing contracts, giving legal advice, or representing clients in court.

So what can a non-lawyer do? They can fill in the blanks on a standard form or contract. A non-lawyer can prepare tax returns, provided they don't give specific legal advice. It is also acceptable to provide general estate planning guidance. However, the specifics and the legal instruments of estate planning still need to be written by an attorney.

Real Estate Specific Examples

There are many seemingly harmless ways for someone in a real estate deal to commit unauthorized practice of law. It would not be an issue for someone to fill in the blanks on a template contract. However, there could be a legal issue if the person drafting the complete original contract isn't allowed to do so in that state. Scrivening, which is the act of filling in the blanks, is legal for anyone to do. Drafting refers to creating the document. Lawyers have the training and education to properly word these documents so that they are enforceable. If a contract drafted by a non-lawyer ever became evidence in a court case, it might be found to be inadmissible. Enforcing rules against unauthorized practice of law helps prevent situations such as this from occurring.

Where unauthorized practice of law statutes exist, the state will identify the scope of allowable practices. Some duties may be permissible for brokers, closing agents, real estate agents, or the buyer/seller to perform.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about Study.com
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account
Support