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Author Topic: Practice of "Law" w/out a License  (Read 1734 times)

Burning Sands, Esq.

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Re: Practice of "Law" w/out a License
« Reply #20 on: June 03, 2014, 06:17:09 PM »
I'm a bit confused by the discussion in this thread seeing as how nobody can "practice law" without a license.   Practicing law without a license is a crime in any state, including the state of California:

BUSINESS AND PROFESSIONS CODE
SECTION 6125-6133

6125.  No person shall practice law in California unless the person
is an active member of the State Bar.

6126.  (a) 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 member 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. Upon a
second or subsequent conviction, the person shall be confined in a
county jail for not less than 90 days, except in an unusual case
where the interests of justice would be served by imposition of a
lesser sentence or a fine. If the court imposes only a fine or a
sentence of less than 90 days for a second or subsequent conviction
under this subdivision, the court shall state the reasons for its
sentencing choice on the record.

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Charles H. Houston

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Re: Practice of "Law" w/out a License
« Reply #21 on: June 03, 2014, 07:37:52 PM »
Yes, that's absolutely right. Practicing law without a license is illegal and unethical.

I think what we're talking about I this thread are a few jobs in which a legal education would be helpful, but bar admission is not required.

The fine line that such an individual must walk is to avoid giving legal advice (practicing law) while still advocating for their client. My understanding is that non-lawyers can represent clients in certain administrative hearings such as SSA, VA, Patent Office, and some IRS proceedings.

They aren't supposed to hold themselves out as attorneys or offer legal advice, although I imagine that does indeed happen.

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Re: Practice of "Law" w/out a License
« Reply #22 on: June 03, 2014, 08:27:30 PM »
If you're going into business for yourself as a solo practitioner doing SSA or VA advocacy, it doesn't matter if you're licensed. It's not going to prevent you from hiring yourself, and nothing you learn for the bar exam is going to prepare you anyway.
 
Is it a good idea to go into solo practice straight out of law school, and without a mentor? Depends on the individual. Some people are smart enough to figure it out, especially if they have previous experience in the field. Others aren't, and need some hand holding at first.

I could see it being a problem if clients want a licensed attorney as opposed to a mere advocate, but frankly, I doubt if most actually care. What they want is someone who can win, regardless of licensure.
   

This strikes me as professional suicide with HUGE liabilities

To be clear, when I say "solo practitioner" I'm talking about jobs that don't require bar admission, not lawyers. To practice law without licensure is flatly illegal.

As far as "professional suicide" and liability, I imagine the potential liability for an SSA advocate or patent agent, etc is similar to that of a lawyer: professional malpractice. I'm not sure if they are required to carry professional liability insurance.

As far as actually practicing law as a solo practitioner straight out of law school, I wouldn't have felt competent enough. I would have been scared of screwing up. But, some people have more experience than others. I have a friend who worked for several years as a paralegal at a family law firm, then continued working during law school. By the time she graduated and passed the bar she had something like 7-8 years of experience in family law, and felt totally competent going solo. It just depends.

Burning Sands, Esq.

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Re: Practice of "Law" w/out a License
« Reply #23 on: June 03, 2014, 08:57:05 PM »
Yes, that's absolutely right. Practicing law without a license is illegal and unethical.

I think what we're talking about I this thread are a few jobs in which a legal education would be helpful, but bar admission is not required.

The fine line that such an individual must walk is to avoid giving legal advice (practicing law) while still advocating for their client. My understanding is that non-lawyers can represent clients in certain administrative hearings such as SSA, VA, Patent Office, and some IRS proceedings.

They aren't supposed to hold themselves out as attorneys or offer legal advice, although I imagine that does indeed happen.

I see.

In that case, law school itself is not needed for those kinds of positions.
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Re: Practice of "Law" w/out a License
« Reply #24 on: June 03, 2014, 09:11:56 PM »
I understand that you meant advocate vs attorney, I still think it would be wreckless for people to do solo without experience.
I agree also with burningsands that you don't even need a JD to do it. I honestly don't think it would matter to have an online JD other than to add the letters after a name on a card to hand out to people (although the bar may require a disclosure of not being licensed if one did)

I gave it thought once and did work as an advocate in law school, but I had lots of questions that I needed a supervisor for. If not for the supervising attorneys and heck, even the paralegals I'd have been likely to make bad mistakes.

If someone wanted to do it unlicensed I'd say start as a paralegal in such a firm first. There are SSA paralegal jobs all over the internet with want ads. I'd say start there, glean info, and then become an advocate after that.

Burning Sands, Esq.

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Re: Practice of "Law" w/out a License
« Reply #25 on: June 04, 2014, 12:14:14 AM »
I think a prime example is the distinction between a patent agent and a patent attorney).  Both a patent agent and a patent attorney have to take and pass the patent bar.  After taking the patent bar, both can file a patent application with the USPTO on somebody's behalf.  But the patent agent cannot give advice to a patent inventor, which, critically, includes advice on whether or not the inventor's patent might be infringing on someone else's patent or vice versa. In addition, the patent agent cannot draft license agreements or other contracts that would help the inventor earn royalties on their invention.  And, of course, the patent agent cannot represent an inventor in court if and when their patent is challenged by another inventor.  The patent agent can only prosecute patents inside the USPTO, which goes back to the point someone raised earlier about being an "advocate" vs. being an attorney: the patent agent can be an advocate by helping somebody navigate the complex labyrinth of procedures inside the USPTO, but their advocacy ends there.  Anything beyond that requires an attorney.

As with the other "advocate" positions raised earlier, one does not need a law degree to be a patent agent.  A Bachelor's will do just fine.  In other words, you don't need go through the time, energy and expense of law school in order to be an "advocate."  If that is your end goal, then you can get started on that path now and skip the J.D.
"A lawyer's either a social engineer or a parasite on society. A social engineer is a highly skilled...lawyer who understands the Constitution of the U.S. and knows how to explore its uses in the solving of problems of local communities and in bettering [our] conditions."
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Re: Practice of "Law" w/out a License
« Reply #26 on: June 04, 2014, 12:46:12 AM »
Yes and NO to that distinction.

At least the patent agent has to take an exam and have a minimum amount of specific relevant education.
With the SSA Agent argument, it is any GED or less drug addict with time on his hands.

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Re: Practice of "Law" w/out a License
« Reply #27 on: June 04, 2014, 02:43:48 AM »
As with the other "advocate" positions raised earlier, one does not need a law degree to be a patent agent.  A Bachelor's will do just fine.  In other words, you don't need go through the time, energy and expense of law school in order to be an "advocate."  If that is your end goal, then you can get started on that path now and skip the J.D.

Indeed.

If the goal is to become a patent agent or SSA advocate, then spending money on a JD probably does not pass the cost/benefit analysis. I believe the OP's intention, however, was to point out career options for DL students who do not pass the bar.

Let's say you get an online/correspondence JD, take the bar a few times, and realize that it's not going to happen. Is there a way to utilize the knowledge and make money? Perhaps.

Although a JD is not required for these careers, knowledge of statutory construction, civil procedure, and maybe conlaw is useful. In that way the JD holder can enhance their abilities and be a better patent agent, SSA advocate, etc.

I don't think the OP was suggesting that anyone obtain a JD in order to become an advocate, or that they become an advocate in lieu of professional licensure.   

Burning Sands, Esq.

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Re: Practice of "Law" w/out a License
« Reply #28 on: June 04, 2014, 08:38:35 AM »

At least the patent agent has to take an exam and have a minimum amount of specific relevant education.

True. Good point.
"A lawyer's either a social engineer or a parasite on society. A social engineer is a highly skilled...lawyer who understands the Constitution of the U.S. and knows how to explore its uses in the solving of problems of local communities and in bettering [our] conditions."
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Burning Sands, Esq.

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Re: Practice of "Law" w/out a License
« Reply #29 on: June 04, 2014, 08:48:17 AM »
As with the other "advocate" positions raised earlier, one does not need a law degree to be a patent agent.  A Bachelor's will do just fine.  In other words, you don't need go through the time, energy and expense of law school in order to be an "advocate."  If that is your end goal, then you can get started on that path now and skip the J.D.

Indeed.

If the goal is to become a patent agent or SSA advocate, then spending money on a JD probably does not pass the cost/benefit analysis. I believe the OP's intention, however, was to point out career options for DL students who do not pass the bar.

Let's say you get an online/correspondence JD, take the bar a few times, and realize that it's not going to happen. Is there a way to utilize the knowledge and make money? Perhaps.

Although a JD is not required for these careers, knowledge of statutory construction, civil procedure, and maybe conlaw is useful. In that way the JD holder can enhance their abilities and be a better patent agent, SSA advocate, etc.

I don't think the OP was suggesting that anyone obtain a JD in order to become an advocate, or that they become an advocate in lieu of professional licensure.

Right. I guess my comments were focused on the OP's premise where they said:

Quote
Given that a number of DL students won't pass the California Bar

This is effectively a concession that if you go into a DL program then you will not end up practicing law.  In other words, a DL program will relegate you to a life of advocacy at best, but not the practice of law.

If such is the case, and we are aware of this information as we sit here today, then why even bother going to a DL law school? Just begin your advocacy right now and skip law school.
"A lawyer's either a social engineer or a parasite on society. A social engineer is a highly skilled...lawyer who understands the Constitution of the U.S. and knows how to explore its uses in the solving of problems of local communities and in bettering [our] conditions."
Charles H. Houston