Practice of Law

(redirected from Unauthorized practice of law)
Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Financial, Acronyms.

Practice of Law

The professional tasks performed by lawyers in their offices or in court on a day-to-day basis. With the growth of specialization, it has become difficult to generalize about the practice of law. Nevertheless, common elements can be identified in the disparate typical workday of, for example, a criminal defense attorney and a probate attorney.

The practice of law depends on lawyers having clients. Therefore, lawyers must spend time with clients or potential clients. In these meetings lawyers are expected to do more than just listen to their clients' concerns and desires. Lawyers must ask questions that help identity the legal issues at stake and use the answers to make an initial assessment of the case. If the legal and factual issues are simple a lawyer may be able to offer the client legal advice. If the issues are more complex or the facts are unclear the lawyer will defer offering advice. At the end of the meeting the client or the lawyer may decide they do not want to pursue the matter any further. If they agree to proceed, however, the client will often sign a retainer agreement that specifies what the lawyer will charge and how payments will be made.

Once a legal problem or issue has been identified the lawyer must act on the client's behalf and research the law of the state or jurisdiction. If the client wants a will or contract prepared, the lawyer will draft the document. If the client has a dispute with a party, the lawyer may contact that party or the party's attorney, to discuss the situation. If the problem cannot be resolved informally the lawyer may file a civil lawsuit with a local court and begin the litigation process. These types of actions are mirrored in the Criminal Law, where prosecutors represent the state and defense lawyers represent those persons charged with crimes. If a criminal matter cannot be resolved through a plea bargain, the case must be tried in court.

The practice of law is most public when a matter is tried before a court. In both civil and criminal hearings and trials, lawyers must understand rules of procedure and evidence. Lawyers select jurors, challenge the introduction of evidence, make arguments to the judge and jury, propose jury instructions and do whatever is necessary to represent their clients. Lawyers also may file appeals on behalf of their clients if they lose in the trial court. Appeals require the preparation of a brief and oral argument in front of appellate judges.

An overlooked part of the practice of law is the collection of money on behalf of the client. Once a court issues a final judgment awarding damages, court costs, and attorneys' fees, an attorney must secure payment from the other party. If the party fails to pay the judgment the attorney can garnish the wages of the party and attach the party's Personal Property in order to obtain the money to which the client is legally entitled.

Further readings

Bogus, Carl T. 2001. Why Lawsuits are Good for America: Disciplined Democracy, Big Business, and the Common Law. New York: New York Univ. Press.

Foonberg, Jay G. 1999. How to Start and Build a Law Practice. 4th ed. Chicago: American Bar Association.

Hobson, Wayne K. 1986. The American Legal Profession and the Organizational Society, 1890–1930. New York: Garland.

Walton, Kimm Alayane. 2000. What Law School Doesn't Teach You … But You Really Need to Know. New York: Harcourt Brace Legal and Professional Publications.


Attorney-Client Privilege; Attorney Misconduct; Canons of Ethics; Ethics, Legal; Lawyer; Legal Malpractice; Professional Responsibility.

References in periodicals archive ?
Most cases available in the United States involve inbound situations in which the lawyer is from outside the state in which the unauthorized practice of law rule is applied.
For example, some states when conducting unauthorized practice of law analysis focus on the degree of legal skill and knowledge required for the activity in question.
Ciolino, Is LegalZoom Engaged in the Unauthorized Practice of Law in Louisianaf, La.
If it were determined that the actions of staff attorneys constituted the actions of the corporation, this would constitute an unauthorized practice of law in that it violates the requirements of the Act and sections of the Code restricting the unauthorized practice of law by corporations not set up expressly for the purpose of offering legal services.
She also proposes that unauthorized practice of law prohibitions be "more narrowly tailored to further the public's rather than the profession's interest.
However, with the expansion of services, the potential for engaging in the unauthorized practice of law increases.
To state a cause of action for damages under any legal theory that arises from the unauthorized practice of law, we hold that the pleading must state that this court has ruled that the specified conduct at issue constitutes the unauthorized practice of law .
The Ohio Supreme Court has ruled that non-attorneys who represent companies in workers' compensation hearings are not engaging in the unauthorized practice of law.
Former Bar legislative counsel and unauthorized practice of law director, Richard McFarlain, who worked closely with Faulkner, said, "He was truly responsible for bringing the disciplinary system up to date.
He is charged with nine counts of grand theft, two counts of elder fiduciary abuse and one count each of preparing false evidence for court and unauthorized practice of law.