The practice of law in the U.S. is very different from that of most countries around the world for a variety of reasons that include our reliance on the common law system rather than the civil law system espoused by most of the world’s jurisdictions. Unlike in most other countries where paralegals are allowed to perform routine legal tasks, only licensed attorneys are allowed to practice law in the U.S. and paralegals in the U.S. can only world under the direct supervision of an attorney. There are stiff penalties attached to the unauthorized practice of law and the definition of what constitutes the “practice” of law is very broadly defined to include acts that most people would not consider to be the practice of law. Thus many professionals–including accountants, realtors and others–can run afoul of the law through the simple act of giving advice to clients and helping them interpret or fill out contracts, forms and related paperwork. See my article (click on the following link) for a full discussion of the topic. It really should be read by most professionals as ignorance of the law will not limit liability for its breach.
- López, V. D. “Unauthorized Practice of Law in the U.S.: a Survey and Brief Analysis of the Law” North East Journal of Legal Studies (Vol. 26, Fall 2011).