Unauthorized practice of law is when a general lay person applies a rule of law to a fact pattern. The general rule is that the practice of law is limited to those who are licensed after satisfying certain state requirements of education, moral character, and understanding of the law. (Orlik, D, Ethics for the Legal Professional Chapter 2 p. 39.
In the first scenario if Polly Paralegal answers Mr. Stan Smith’s question she is committing unauthorized practice of law. The questions states do the grounds for divorce in North Carolina include adultery. Mr. Stan Smith is not asking for legal advice he is simply asking a question. Since Polly Paralegal has knowledge of the law then if and ...view middle of the document...
A non-lawyer does not have that duty of confidence although if the non-lawyer is part of a legal team then they do have to hold the same standards of the lawyer and not disclose anything that is known of the client. The non-lawyer has to keep the clients information with him/her until the non-lawyer, attorney and whoever is on the legal team and has access to the client’s information dies.
In the second scenario Polly Paralegal is asked a question “Do I have grounds for divorce in North Carolina? I just found out that Stan committed adultery”. Answering this question will engage Polly in unauthorized practice of law. The rule used to determine whether one is going to commit unauthorized practice of law is if the person responding to the question uses the following pattern; they apply the law to the person’s fact pattern and gives the person their opinion or conclusion.
According to North Carolina’s State Bar’s Rules, the unauthorized practice of law is engaging in the practice of law in North Carolina or advertising or otherwise holding out to the public of an ability to provide legal services by someone other than a licensed North Carolina attorney. The unauthorized practice of law is illegal because a person who is not trained and licensed as an attorney may seriously harm the interest of a member of the public by providing incompetent legal services. Under the statues only licensed North Carolina attorneys may provide legal services in North Carolina.
ABA Model Code of Professional Responsibility Canon 3-1 states that the public can better be assured of the requisite responsibility and competence if the practice of law is confined to those who are subject to the requirements and regulations imposed upon members of the legal profession.
Polly Paralegal is a non-lawyer if she undertakes to handle legal matters she ruins the integrity and legal competence of the legal profession.
A person who has no knowledge of law does not know whether he was given the correct information. Mrs. Smith and Mr. Smith know that Polly Paralegal works in a law firm she may be privy to...