The examples and perspective in this article deal primarily with the United States and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (December 2016) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
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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 that are posed by the software in order to construct the legal documents.
Legal advice is the giving of a professional or formal opinion regarding the substance or procedure of the law in relation to a particular factual situation. The provision of legal advice will often involve analyzing a set of facts and advising a person to take a specific course of action based on the applicable law.
Negotiation is a dialogue between two or more people or parties intended to reach a beneficial outcome over one or more issues where a conflict exists with respect to at least one of these issues. This beneficial outcome can be for all of the parties involved, or just for one or some of them.
A court is any person or institution with authority to judge or adjudicate, often as a government institution, with the authority to adjudicate legal disputes between parties and carry out the administration of justice in civil, criminal, and administrative matters in accordance with the rule of law. In both common law and civil law legal systems, courts are the central means for dispute resolution, and it is generally understood that all people have an ability to bring their claims before a court. Similarly, the rights of those accused of a crime include the right to present a defense before a court.
In the United States, the practice of law is conditioned upon admission to practice of law, and specifically 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, and their definitions vary.
The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country comprising 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the most populous city is New York City. Most of the country is located contiguously in North America between Canada and Mexico.
An admission to practice law is acquired when a lawyer receives a license to practice law. In jurisdictions with two types of lawyer, as with barristers and solicitors, barristers must gain admission to the bar whereas for solicitors there are distinct practising certificates.
Admission to the bar in the United States is the granting of permission by a particular court system to a lawyer to practice law in the jurisdiction and before those courts. Each U.S. state and similar jurisdiction has its own court system and sets its own rules for bar admission, which can lead to different admission standards among states. In most cases, a person is "admitted" or "called" to the bar of the highest court in the jurisdiction and is thereby authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction. In addition, Federal Courts of the United States, although often overlapping in admission standards with states, set their own requirements for practice in each of those courts.
"Unauthorized practice of law" (UPL) is an act sometimes prohibited by statute, regulation, or court rules.
A statute is a formal written enactment of a legislative authority that governs the legal entities of a city, state, or country by way of consent. Typically, statutes command or prohibit something, or declare policy. Statutes are rules made by legislative bodies; they are distinguished from case law or precedent, which is decided by courts, and regulations issued by government agencies.
Regulation is an abstract concept of management of complex systems according to a set of rules and trends. In systems theory, these types of rules exist in various fields of biology and society, but the term has slightly different meanings according to context. For example:
The definition of "unauthorized practice of law" is variable, and is often conclusory and tautological,i.e., it is the doing of a lawyer's or counselor's work by a non-lawyer for money. There is some agreement that appearing in a legally constituted court in a legal proceeding to represent clients (particularly for a fee) is considered to be unauthorized practice of law. But other variations are subject to interpretation and conflicting regulation, particularly as to the scope and breadth of the prohibition. Black's Law Dictionary defines unauthorized practice of law as "The practice of law by a person, typically a nonlawyer, who has not been licensed or admitted to practice law in a given jurisdiction."
A counsel or a counsellor at law is a person who gives advice and deals with various issues, particularly in legal matters. It is a title often used interchangeably with the title of lawyer.
The Restatement (Third) of the Law Governing Lawyers notes:
In American jurisprudence, the Restatements of the Law are a set of treatises on legal subjects that seek to inform judges and lawyers about general principles of common law. There are now four series of Restatements, all published by the American Law Institute, an organization of judges, legal academics, and practitioners founded in 1923.
The definitions and tests employed by courts to delineate unauthorized practice by non-lawyers have been vague or conclusory, while jurisdictions have differed significantly in describing what constitutes unauthorized practice in particular areas.
Certain activities, such as the representation of another person in litigation, are generally proscribed. Even in that area, many jurisdictions recognize exceptions for such matters as small-claims and landlord-tenant tribunals and certain proceedings in administrative agencies. Moreover, many jurisdictions have authorized law students and others not locally admitted to represent indigent persons or others as part of clinical legal education programs. . . .
What is more controversial is out-of-court activities, particularly drafting of documents and giving advice, and whether that is considered to be unauthorized practice of law.Some states have defined the "practice of law" to include those who appear as a representative in arbitration or act as arbitrators in disputes. For example, there is a growing conflict between the multijurisdictional practice of law in arbitration proceedings in the financial service industry and state regulation of lawyers. With a few exceptions, the general rule is that an appearance at an arbitration does not constitute the practice of law.
The United States bankruptcy court for the Eastern District of Tennessee has held that "providing clients with explanations or definitions of such legal terms of art ... is, by itself, giving legal advice."The North Carolina State Bar has held that "definition of lien law terms, warnings regarding time requirements, and reminders about sending out preliminary notices within five to ten days of beginning work, when combined with its preparation of legal documents [in the manner described], constitute providing legal advice."
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.Some states also criminalize the separate behavior of falsely claiming to be lawyer (in Texas, for example, this is a felony).
Criminal laws and enforcement of "Unauthorized Practice of Law (UPL)" statutes is the organized bar's preferred method. In Florida, the unauthorized practice of law is a third degree felony,which is punishable by up to six months in prison and $5000 in fines. New Jersey has a law which makes it a “disorderly persons offense” to knowingly to engage in the unauthorized practice of law, and a “crime in the fourth degree” to commit UPL if one (a) creates a false impression that one is a lawyer; (b) derives a benefit from UPL, or (c) causes an injury by UPL. In a 2015 survey by the American Bar Association, Florida had the largest budget—$1.8 million—nationwide for prosecuting the unauthorized practice of law.
Despite the state's interest in protecting the public and so-called "learned professions" from having unschooled persons practising them, and the state's insistence on enforcing a monopoly, the existence of laws governing (or defining) "unauthorized practice of Law" does not, ipso facto mean that they will be enforced.
The American Bar Association proposed model rules regarding the unauthorized practice of law, which Judge Richard Posner characterized as an attempt to perpetuate a monopoly to the disadvantage of consumers.The judge observed that the legal profession is “a cartel of providers of services relating to society’s laws” which cartel's focus is to restrict entry. "Modern economists call it 'rent seeking', but throughout recorded history, skilled crafts and professions have tried to raise their members’ incomes by using the power of the state to limit entry."
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.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. 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 imposed sanctions on 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."
In the United States, the rules of professional conduct generally prohibit an attorney from assisting a non-attorney from engaging in the unauthorized practice of law. An attorney therefore may not partner with or split fees with a non-attorney in the performance of any sort of legal work. Furthermore, an attorney may not employ a disbarred or suspended attorney in a legal practice where former clients of the disbarred or suspended attorney will be represented. [ citation needed ]
A barrister is a type of lawyer in common law jurisdictions. Barristers mostly specialise in courtroom advocacy and litigation. Their tasks include taking cases in superior courts and tribunals, drafting legal pleadings, researching the philosophy, hypothesis and history of law, and giving expert legal opinions. Often, barristers are also recognised as legal scholars.
Disbarment is the removal of a lawyer from a bar association or the practice of law, thus revoking his or her law license or admission to practice law. Disbarment is usually a punishment for unethical or criminal conduct. Procedures vary depending on the law society.
A lawyer or attorney is a person who practices law, as an advocate, attorney, attorney at law, barrister, barrister-at-law, bar-at-law, canonist, canon lawyer, civil law notary, counsel, counselor, counsellor, solicitor, legal executive, or public servant preparing, interpreting and applying law, but not as a paralegal or charter executive secretary. Working as a lawyer involves the practical application of abstract legal theories and knowledge to solve specific individualized problems, or to advance the interests of those who hire lawyers to perform legal services.
IANAL is a Usenet and chat abbreviation (initialism) for the expansion "I am not a lawyer". The expansion may be used by non-lawyers who are seeking to avoid accusations of unauthorized practice of law and are not making any recommendation to the particular addressee of their remarks.
A solicitor is a legal practitioner who traditionally deals with most of the legal matters in some jurisdictions. A person must have legally-defined qualifications, which vary from one jurisdiction to another, to be described as a solicitor and enabled to practise there as such. For example, in England and Wales a solicitor is admitted to practise under the provisions of the Solicitors Act 1974. With some exceptions, practising solicitors must possess a practising certificate. There are many more solicitors than barristers in England; they undertake the general aspects of giving legal advice and conducting legal proceedings.
An attorney at law in the United States is a practitioner in a court of law who is legally qualified to prosecute and defend actions in court on the retainer of clients. Alternative terms include counselor and lawyer. As of April 2011, there were 1,225,452 licensed attorneys in the United States. A 2012 survey conducted by LexisNexis Martindale-Hubbell determined 58 million consumers in the U.S. sought an attorney in the last year and that 76 percent of consumers used the Internet to search for an attorney.
A bar association is a professional association of lawyers. Some bar associations are responsible for the regulation of the legal profession in their jurisdiction; others are professional organizations dedicated to serving their members; in many cases, they are both. In many Commonwealth jurisdictions, the bar association comprises lawyers who are qualified as barristers or advocates in particular, versus solicitors. Membership in bar associations may be mandatory or optional for practicing attorneys, depending on jurisdiction.
The call to the bar is a legal term of art in most common law jurisdictions where persons must be qualified to be allowed to argue in court on behalf of another party and are then said to have been "called to the bar" or to have received a "call to the bar". "The bar" is now used as a collective noun for barristers, but literally referred to the wooden barrier in old courtrooms, which separated the often crowded public area at the rear from the space near the judges reserved for those having business with the Court. Barristers would sit or stand immediately behind it, facing the judge, and could use it as a table for their briefs.
A paralegal is an individual who is employed or retained by a lawyer, law office, corporation, governmental agency, or other entity and who performs specifically delegated substantive legal work for which a lawyer is responsible. Paralegals perform tasks requiring knowledge of the law and legal procedures. The exact nature of their work and limitations that the law places on the tasks they are allowed to undertake vary between nations and jurisdictions. A paralegal is not a lawyer but is typically employed by a law office or internal legal department of a company. Paralegals generally are not allowed to offer legal services independently in most jurisdictions. Paralegals operate under a form of independent legal ethics and, with few exceptions, must also conduct their work under the formal supervision of an attorney. In some jurisdictions, paralegals can conduct their own business and are called law agents, providing services such as settlements, court filings, legal research and other auxiliary legal services; these tasks often have instructions from a solicitor attached.
In law, the bar is the legal profession as an institution. The term is a metonym for the line that separates the parts of a courtroom reserved for spectators and those reserved for participants in a trial such as lawyers.
Legal ethics, principles of conduct that members of the legal profession are expected to observe in their practice. They are an outgrowth of the development of the legal profession itself.
Professional responsibility is the area of legal practice that encompasses the duties of attorneys to act in a professional manner, obey the law, avoid conflicts of interest, and put the interests of clients ahead of their own interests.
The State Bar of California is California's official attorney licensing agency. It is responsible for managing the admission of lawyers to the practice of law, investigating complaints of professional misconduct, and prescribing appropriate discipline. It is directly responsible to the Supreme Court of California. All attorney admissions and disbarments are issued as recommendations of the State Bar, which are then routinely ratified by the Supreme Court.
The State Bar of Arizona is the integrated (mandatory) bar association of the U.S. state of Arizona. The Arizona Supreme Court licenses lawyers, while the State Bar administers the regulation of the practice of law. The State Bar, under the direction of the Court, establishes procedures for the discipline of lawyer misconduct and provides education and development programs for the legal profession and the public. Through the Rules of The Supreme Court of Arizona, the privilege to practice law in Arizona is granted solely to "active member[s] of the state bar."
Legal advertising is advertising by lawyers and law firms. Legal marketing is a broader term referring to advertising and other practices, such as client relations, blogging, cross-selling, public relations and maintaining contact with alumni.
A legal document assistant in the United States is a non-lawyer authorized to assist with the preparation of legal instruments. Unlike a paralegal, legal document assistants do not work under the supervision of an attorney.
Bates v. State Bar of Arizona, 433 U.S. 350 (1977), was a United States Supreme Court case in which the Court upheld the right of lawyers to advertise their services. In holding that lawyer advertising was commercial speech entitled to protection under the First Amendment, the Court upset the tradition against advertising by lawyers, rejecting it as an antiquated rule of etiquette.
The Florida Bar continues to lead the country in funding UPL enforcement, spending approximately $1.8 million annually.