Unauthorized Practice of Law

Practicing law in a state without a license from that particular state is illegal, and therefore knowing what is and what is not considered the “practice of law” is very important. States have the power to regulate their practice of law.

For example, a lawyer licensed to practice law in New York, but lives in Florida, will not be able to practice law in Florida.

However, the federal government has the authority to regulate who can practice before its agencies, including the Treasury Department. Therefore, lawyers, CPAs, enrolled agents, and un-enrolled tax return preparers can provide tax services to clients. The federal authority permits lawyers to practice federal tax law anywhere, as long as they are licensed in any state, district, territory or possession of the United States.

BUT, a tax return preparer must be careful when giving advice to its clients and not engage in the illegal practice of the law; the advice must be directly related to practicing tax law. There is a difference between giving advice related to a question of law on its own and dealing with a question of law, which is part of a client’s accounting services.

Because the line between the two is often unclear, lawyers should pay attention and be very careful before giving legal advice and refer their clients to a licensed attorney in that particular state if they think they may be crossing the line…

Paralegals also have to be wary of UPL (Unauthorized Practice of Law). Usually there are steps they can take to make sure they’re not partaking.

  1. Check your state statutes about the unauthorized practice of law.
  2. Ask your local paralegal association.
  3. Ask your supervising attorney.

Quick overview of what a paralegal should never perform:

  • Paralegals should not establish the attorney-client relationship.
  • Paralegals should not set legal fees.
  • Paralegals should not give legal opinions or legal advice.
  • Paralegals cannot represent others in court except in administrative courts (such as Social Security Administration hearings and then only when they have the court’s authorization to do so).
  • Paralegals should not engage in, encourage, or contribute to anything that could even be considered the unauthorized practice of law.

EPGD Law encourages seeking legal counsel if you feel as though someone may be practicing law unauthorized. For questions, you can reach us info@epgdlaw.com or call us directly. (786) 837-6787.