Unauthorized Practice of Law in the U.S.: A Survey and Brief Analysis of the Law

The practice of law in the United States is very different from that in every other country, especially countries that are not former colonies of Great Britain and therefore follow the world-standard civil law system rather than the common law system that has its roots in England. As a result, the U.S. does not have a unified system of law and the law changes from jurisdiction to jurisdiction from state to state and even from federal circuit to federal circuit in significant ways. As a result, the practice of law is much more complicated in the U.S. than in most other countries, including Great Britain and her other former colonies. We have more lawyers and more litigation per capita than just about anywhere else on earth not because of the cultural or psychological reasons sometimes attributed by commentators, but rather because our system is designed on an adversarial model where lawyers (and only lawyers) are allowed to provide legal advice and representation  on both complex and routine matters that are often handled by (much less expensive) non-lawyer paraprofessionals in most other parts of the world. Indeed, representing another person or even giving legal advice is a misdemeanor or felony in most every state that can result in criminal prosecution and jail time. For a full discussion of the issue you can read an article I published in the North East Journal of Legal Studies in Fall 2011 edition (pages 60-84). The journal has recently been digitized and is now available free of charge online as well as in its original bound edition. The automated digitizing process introduced some minor glitches but the article is quite legible and I am grateful that it is now available beyond law libraries to the general public. You can access the volume in question at the following link (click on my name or the article’s name from the link that follows and the appropriate volume will be downloaded in PDF format): http://nealsb.info/j2011.html

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