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Practicing Law Without A License
also called
Unauthorized Practice of Law (UPL)

While the states differ in some aspects, all agree that a person may represent themselves and that is not practicing law without a license. In some states, it appears that mearly telling someone else that "you should sue them", or possibly advising another party to obtain a lawyer, qualifies as Unauthorized Practice of Law (UPL). Bear in mind, lawyers draft, legislate into effect, and administer the law. The original purpose of "preventing people who are not lawyers from giving legal advice and harming the citizens" is no longer valid as the general population is much more educated, more aware, and on-line than ever before. Lawyers have legislated away a person's right to decide for themselves even when they are aware of the potential consequences.


The Colodao Supreme Court previously has defined the “practice of law” as acting “in a representative capacity in protecting, enforcing, or defending the legal rights and duties of another and in counselling, advising and assisting him in connection with these rights and duties . . . .” Denver Bar Ass’n v. Pub. Util. Comm’n, 154 Colo. 273, 279, 391 P.2d 467, 471 (1964). Applying this definition, they have held that an unlicensed person engages in the unauthorized practice of law by offering legal advice about a specific case, drafting or selecting legal pleadings for another’s use in a judicial proceeding without the supervision of an attorney, or holding oneself out as the representative of another in a legal action. See id.; see also Grimes, 654 P.2d at 823 (offering case specific legal advice and selecting case specific legal documents constitutes the practice of law); Unauthorized Practice of Law Comm. v. Prog, 761 P.2d 1111, 1115 (Colo. 1988) (same).


In Missouri, while the phrase “practice of law” has been defined in Missouri by statute, the key to the court holding is found in the statutory definition of “the law business”, which is defined to mean:

“the advising or counseling for valuable consideration of any person, firm, association or corporation as to any secular law, or the drawing or the procuring of or assisting in the drawing for a valuable consideration of any paper, document, or instrument affecting or relating to secular rights or the doing of any act for a valuable consideration in a representative capacity, obtaining or tending to obtain, or securing or tending to secure for any person, firm, association or corporation any property or property rights whatsoever”. (page 859 at 927 SW 2nd)

South Carolina

In South Carolina, except where a person is representing his or her own cause, practicing law without a license is strictly prohibited by state law. Section 40-5-310 states that practicing law without a license is a felony, with a penalty of up to five years in prison and/or five a thousand dollar fine. As of 2002, Section 40-5-80 was amended to prohibit the representation of another, with or without permission from a court.

The South Carolina Supreme Court has the authority to regulate the practice of law in this State. S.C. Const. art. V, § 4. This Court had held that the practice of law:

". . . is not limited to the conduct of cases in courts. According to the generally understood definition of the practice of law in this country, it embraces the preparation of pleadings, and other papers incident to actions and special proceedings, and the management of such actions and proceedings on behalf of clients before judges and courts, and in addition, conveyancing, the preparation of legal instruments of all kinds and, in general, all advice to clients, and all action taken for them in matters connected with the law. An attorney at law is one who engages in any of these branches of the practice of law.
In re Duncan, 83 S.C. 186, 189, 65 S.E. 210, 211 (1909)."

"Respondent has engaged in the unauthorized practice of law. He held himself out as a lawyer on a website for which he admits responsibility and he has published materials in which he states he is an attorney. Moreover, respondent has provided advice on selection of legal forms and how to complete the forms. Respondent has drafted pleadings and, on at least one occasion, managed court proceedings on behalf of another individual. All of this conduct has previously been defined as the practice of law by this Court."


Tex Gov't Code § 81.101 defines the practice of law, as follows:

"(a) In this chapter the "practice of law" means the preparation of a pleading or other document incident to an action or special proceeding or the management of the action or proceeding on behalf of a client before a judge in court as well as a service rendered out of court, including the giving of advice or the rendering of any service requiring the use of legal skill or knowledge, such as preparing a will, contract, or other instrument, the legal effect of which under the facts and conclusions involved must be carefully determined."

(T)he Palmer court found that the preparation of legal instruments of all kinds involves the practice of law. Palmer 438 S.W.2d at 376. The Texas Supreme Court has since held that the mere advising of a person as to whether or not to file a form requires legal skill and knowledge, and therefore, would be the practice of law. Unauthorized Practice of Law Committee v. Cortez, 692 S.W.2d 47, 50 (Tex.1985).


Generally, each matter must be examined on a case by case basis. Section 78-9-101 states:

"Unless otherwise provided by law, a person may not practice law or assume to act or hold himself out to the public qualified to practice law within this state if he: (a) is not admitted and licensed to practice law within this state..."

Generally, the practice of law includes, not necessarily for a fee, giving legal advice or counsel, examining or passing upon the legal effect of an act, document or law or representing clients, not necessarily in a judicial setting. Section 78-9-101 states that while there are no criminal sanctions for practicing law without a license, the Bar can seek various civil remedies such as a permanent injunction and contempt.

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