In the blockbuster hit movie Rainmaker, Danny DeVito plays an attorney that is not licensed serving as a mentor to Matt Damon who just completed law school, took and passed the bar and was waiting to be sworn in by a qualified judge. You may recall that Danny DeVito’s character was skirting the lines of practicing law without a license calling into question the unethical practice and violation.
In the State of California (like any other state for that matter) it is illegal to practice law without a license. The Business and Professions Code 6125 strictly prohibits such practices and considers it a crime to do so.
The practice of the law without a license comes in many forms. Perhaps one has graduated from law school but not yet taken and/or passed the bar examination and has been drafting legal documents for a fee or seeing clients, giving legal advice for a fee as well. Maybe a paralegal has been tasked with drafting appellate briefs for their firm’s partner and charges the attorney rate for the service. A non-licensed attorney may be moonlighting drafting Last Wills and Testaments and Trusts for clients out of their home or current workplace.
As you can see, these are obvious violations of the Code as referenced above. If you are found to be in violation of this Code, you might be asking: “what’s the harm?” The State of California, like the other 49 states in the country, has specific requirements to practice the law independently. First, one must graduate from an accredited school of law, complete the appropriate training and sit before and pass the state bar examination. If even one of the aforementioned is missing, then you would be in violation of practicing the law without a license in the State of California and this has damaging consequences, but not to just the violator, but to the client in receipt of such services.
Finally, there are occasions in which a lawyer admitted to practice in another United States jurisdiction (other than California), and not disbarred or suspended from practice in any jurisdiction, may provide legal services on a temporary basis in this jurisdiction (the State of California) under circumstances that do not create an unreasonable risk to the interests of their clients, the public or the courts.
Regardless of the classification of the offense, it is important that you seek the assistance of competent legal counsel to help you best understand your legal defense while identifying an outcome that best minimizes your risk. We here at the H Law group patiently await your call.