States Mull Whether Advocates Must Be Lawyers
January 14, 1999
Must those who provide legal services have a law degree? That's a question a number of states are contemplating.
Most states have statutes prohibiting the "unauthorized practice of law," but the limits and applications vary:
- Florida's Supreme Court has barred nonlawyers from representing investors in securities-arbitration proceedings.
- An Oregon appeals court upheld a ban on a nonlawyer "legal technician" who offered forms and other information on divorce and bankruptcy issues.
- A court panel in Texas is investigating a California publisher on the grounds that marketing computer software containing information on how to prepare a will might constitute practicing law without a license.
- Ohio's Supreme Court last year prohibited a paralegal from representing consumers making an insurance claim arising from an auto accident.
Lawyers are the chief opponents of such public advocates and critics charge their aggressive vigilance stems from a desire to protect their fees. Attorneys, however, contend they are only trying to protect the public from nonprofessionals.
Source: Richard B. Schmitt, "Advocates Act as Lawyers, and States Cry 'Objection!'" Wall Street Journal, January 14, 1999.
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