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Los Angeles Unauthorized Practice of Law Lawyers

Defense Against Charges of Unauthorized Practice of Law

Only licensed attorneys are authorized to practice law in California. A person who is not licensed by the State Bar, who practices law or advertises or holds himself or herself out as entitled to practice law, is guilty of a misdemeanor offense.

The exception is attorneys who are properly licensed and in good standing in another state and who practice only federal law, such as immigration law. Any attorney who has been disbarred or had his or her license suspended but continues to practice is guilty of unauthorized practice of law.

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What Is the California Law on Unauthorized Practice of Law?

Unauthorized practice of law is prohibited under the California Business and Professions Code at Sections 6125 and 6126. The law states:

“Any person advertising or holding himself or herself out as practicing or entitled to practice law or otherwise practicing law who is not an active licensee of the State Bar, or otherwise authorized pursuant to statute or court rule to practice law in this state at the time of doing so, is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in a county jail or by a fine of up to one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both that fine and imprisonment.”

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How Can Unauthorized Practice of Law Occur?

Practicing law generally means preparing legal documents, giving legal advice, or performing legal services in a courtroom. Even if you are not actually practicing law, you can be convicted of unauthorized practice of law for advertising or holding yourself out as a licensed attorney when you are not an active member of the State Bar. The following are some examples of how unauthorized practice of law can occur:

  • An attorney licensed in another state provides legal services for residents of California.
  • A student who has graduated from law school but has not yet passed the bar gives legal advice or prepares legal documents for friends for a small fee.
  • An attorney who has been disbarred completes legal work for clients that was begun before disbarment.
  • A paralegal gives legal advice to a client without consulting the attorney under whose supervision she is working.

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What Are the Penalties for Unauthorized Practice of Law in Los Angeles?

For a first offense, unauthorized practice of law carries a jail sentence of up to one year and a fine of up to $10,000. Penalties can often be reduced to summary probation. For a second or subsequent offense, you could face stiffer penalties, including a mandatory minimum of 90 days in jail.

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What Are the Defenses Against Charges of Unauthorized Practice of Law?

To convict you of unauthorized practice of law, the prosecutor must prove that you knew you were holding yourself out as entitled to practice law or actually practicing law without proper authorization. Defenses our Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys can raise in your case will depend on the circumstances. Possible defenses against these charges include:

  • You acted under duress – Someone threatened or coerced you into performing legal services without a valid license.
  • Your actions were not within the scope of practicing law – You gave advice that was not intended to be construed as legal advice; or the work you performed did not have to be performed by a licensed attorney.
  • You lacked intent – You were not aware that your license to practice law was suspended or that you had been disbarred.

At Werksman Jackson & Quinn LLP, we pride ourselves on delivering the best criminal defense available. If you are facing charges of unauthorized practice of law in Los Angeles, call us at (213) 688-0460.

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Phone: (213) 688-0460
Fax: (213) 624-1942

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