The Unauthorized Practice of Law
The Practice of Law
In the most general sense, the “practice of law” involves engaging in any act for another person usually done by attorneys at law in the course of their profession for a fee. Such acts include preparation of legal documents, providing guidance and/or advice, and representing clients in a court proceeding. Any time a person acts on behalf of another in any legal setting, the elected representative is engaged in the practice of law. For example, if you open and operate a business to assist others in the completion of immigration forms and filing for a fee, you are engaged in the practice of law. Unless you are a licensed attorney, you are now engaged in the unauthorized practice of law.
The Unauthorized Practice of Law
In Rhode Island, the prosecution of the unauthorized practice of law is under the purview of the Unauthorized Practice of Law Committee. The Unauthorized Practice of Law Committee is appointed by the Supreme Court of Rhode Island. The duties of the Committee entail investigating all reports of activities which may constitute the unauthorized practice of law. After the fact finding process, the committee has the ability to hold hearings to determine whether or not the charges are valid. The Committee has broad authority to enforce the rules and regulations deemed necessary in the execution of its duties.
The process begins when a complaint is filed. More than likely a party has been harmed as a result of the actions of the individual unlawfully practicing law and is now seeking retribution for his or her losses. The Committee must determine that there is enough evidence to support a claim of unauthorized practice of law before it that a person has allegedly violated the statutes governing the unauthorized practice of law by holding himself/herself out as authorized to practice law, by profiting from the services performed by attorneys by soliciting business, acting as an agent for attorneys, and by agreeing to furnish legal services that you are unqualified to provide in the absence of a license to practice law in the state.
If the Committee finds that you have violated the statutes against the unauthorized practice of law, the claim is forwarded to the Department of the Attorney General for civil and criminal prosecution. Civil prosecution would entail lawsuits from all of your clients who want their money back or for fines they suffered as a result of the work you performed on their behalf, in addition to various other monetary penalties. Maximum criminal prosecution entails imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year, or fined not exceeding $5,000.00. There is a fine line between providing legal information and practicing law. The factor that weighs most heavily in favor of an unauthorized practice of law claim is the collection of a fee.
Can’t I Represent Myself?
Regardless of your profession, to represent yourself in legal matters is within the confines of the law. When you represent yourself, you act pro se. Pro se is defined as advocating on one’s own behalf before a court, rather than being represented by a lawyer. The literal translation of pro se is Latin for “on one’s own behalf.” However, the judge may force legal representation upon an accused if he or she is charged with a crime that is punishable with jail time to ensure the fairness of the court proceeding. The main goal of this judicial reasoning is to ensure there is not a mistrial. However, be mindful of the old adage “the person who represents himself has a fool for a client.” The imminent possibility of the loss of liberty should not be taken lightly.
What Can an Attorney Do for Me?
Here, at Rob Levine and Associates, we have a proven track record in processing and settling personal injury claims in Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut quickly and efficiently. It is our business to limit costs in the processing of claims to ensure the greatest amount of recovery to our clients. We warrant relevancy in the law by maintaining annual continuing legal education. This ensures that your attorney is kept abreast of the ever changing legal sphere. As you are more than capable of representing yourself against insurance companies, we have the experience and practical know how to expediently breakdown the barriers toward achieving settlement. The benefits of legal representation are higher settlement offers and faster claim resolution. We don’t get paid, until you do.