Practice of Law, State Definitions

US Supreme Court building practice of lawPractice of Law, State Definitions

The definition of the practice of law varies by jurisdiction.  In 2002, a task force of the American Bar Association (ABA) proposed a model definition.

The model definition includes performing the following acts, on behalf of another person:

(1) Giving legal advice or counsel about legal rights or responsibilities;
(2) Selecting, drafting, or completing legal documents;
(3) Representing a person (client) before an adjudicative body;
(4) Preparing or filing documents or conducting discovery; or
(5) Negotiating legal rights or responsibilities.

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Practice of Law, State Comparison

See the ABA summary of the State Definitions of the Practice of Law.  It is a composite of state statutes, rules, and court cases.
Note: The ABA summary was compiled in 2002 and may not be up to date.

Below is a comparison of state definitions or acts that may be considered as the practice of law, as of the 2002 research.  Some states have no definition.
Note: See your current state laws, rules and court cases for the definition for your state.

 Practice of LawState Definitions2002     
no definitionrepresent clientprepare caselegal advicelegal opinionlegal serviceslegal docsnotes
AZxxxxxxcertified legal document preparer
ARxeach case decided on facts
CAxxxxlegal document assistant
COxxxxxlaw teacher at ABA law school
LAxxxxxcivil law notary acts not prohibited
MIxcharging a fee
MNxxxxmuch can be done by non-lawyers
MSxxxxxreceiving a fee, reward or promise
MOxxxxreceiving valuable consideration
MTxxxxmuch can be done by non-lawyers
NExeach case decided on facts
NVxcommunity practices define scope
NHxxeducated judgment needs lawyer
NJxUPL if public interest disserved
NCxxxxxxwith or without compensation
OKxxbased on court decisions
ORxxxxignore custom, payment, incidental
RIxxxxfor consideration, direct or indirect
SDxxxneutral mediator, arbitrator allowed
TNxxxxfor valuable consideration
TXxxxxxxxcreation and sale of legal books, forms, software OK with disclaimer
VAxxxxxfor consideration, direct or indirect
WAxxxxxsale of legal forms allowed, neutral mediator, arbitrator allowed, providing general legal information allowed
WVxxxxxwith or without compensation
WIxxxfor compensation or pecuniary reward

Small Claims Court Exception

Several states authorize officers or employees of a business to represent that business in small claims court: AZ, KY, LA, MD

Restricted Words in Advertising

Several states prohibit non-lawyers from using certain words in advertising their services offered to the public: AZ– lawyer, law, attorney-at-law, UT– JD, Esq, attorney, attorney-at-law, WV– lawyer, attorney, counselor-at-law

Restrictions on Negotiations

Some states have restrictions that prohibit non-lawyers from engaging in negotiations involving legal rights and responsibilities.

Unauthorized Practice of Law

Non-lawyers should avoid acts that may be considered as unauthorized practice of law (UPL).

Photo credits:
1.  US Supreme Court building, Supreme Court website
2.  US Supreme Court banner, Supreme Court website

Disclaimer: Laws vary by state and are subject to change.  This article is not legal advice.  For legal advice, contact a licensed, experienced attorney.

Visit our website for Colorado Springs Mobile Notary services or Colorado Notary Training classes.

[Last-Modified Date 2018-01-19] update broken link to ABA state definitions

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