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What is unauthorized practice of law?

by Tim
(Sebring)

I recently was looking up information on someone to help me fill out some legal forms. However I came across a story about the unauthorized practice of law in Florida and I was wondering what this means.  Does it mean that I need to be careful in who I choose to help me cause not everyone is authorized to help?  Thank you for your time.

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Professionalism
by: Staff FALDP

Dear Tim,
First of all, you always need to be careful about who you choose to help you with anything. There are no specific requirements for someone to become a legal document preparer in Florida. We suggest that you choose someone from our site because you know then that our members have met certain academic and professional criteria; and that our members consider themselves professionals and show that by taking their work seriously enough to join a trade association. Please call if we can help - 800-515-0496.

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Unauthorized Practice of Law

by Betsy
(Miami)

What is the definition of unauthorized practice law in Florida? What are the penalties for the unauthorized practice of law?

I've been helping people straighten out their driver's license records. So far, I've helped family and friends, and once I help one person, another person pops us wanting help. It's like that old arcade game where you hit that little animal on the head. I was thinking I could make a business out of this, there seems to be a huge demand. But, before I do, before I charge, I want to make sure its legal? Do you know?

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UPL Definition
by: Judy L.

Nonlawyer legal document preparers are allowed to help others prepare forms. We believe (but we can't be sure) it is not the unauthorized practice of law to prepare forms for reinstatement of driver's licenses, assisting with forms to accompany fees, etc. The problem with saying yes or no, is that the definitions of “the practice of law” and the “unauthorized practice of law” is a vast murky wasteland.



The legal establishment does not have a working definition for whatever it is that they do – practice law. So we don't exactly know what is “unauthorized”. There are a couple of bright line rules:



  • Don't represent yourself as a lawyer.


  • Don't give legal advice.


  • If using forms which are not Florida Supreme Court approved gather the information in writing – not verbally.


    The Florida Bar regulates UPL. For more information, please visit their website – www.flabar.org.

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    Rosemary Furman

    What happened in the Florida Bar V Rosemary Furman case? What impact on today did the outcome of that case have? I keep hearing / reading little bits about that case, but I don't know the whole story. Just curious.

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    Unauthorized practice of law.

    What are the guidelines for the Florida unauthorized practice of law? How can I make certain I'm not breaking these rules?

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    Unauthorized practice of law.
    by: BRM

    The 2011 Florida Statutes

    Title XXXII
    REGULATION OF PROFESSIONS AND OCCUPATIONS Chapter 454
    ATTORNEYS AT LAW View Entire Chapter

    454.23 Penalties.—Any person not licensed or otherwise authorized to practice law in this state who practices law in this state or holds himself or herself out to the public as qualified to practice law in this state, or who willfully pretends to be, or willfully takes or uses any name, title, addition, or description implying that he or she is qualified, or recognized by law as qualified, to practice law in this state, commits a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.
    History.—s. 21, ch. 10175, 1925; CGL 8133; s. 384, ch. 71-136; s. 1, ch. 74-128; s. 184, ch. 97-103; s. 1, ch. 2004-287.

    http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?mode=View%20Statutes&SubMenu=1&App_mode=Display_Statute&Search_String=practicing+law&URL=0400-0499/0454/Sections/0454.23.html

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    Am I being Legal????


    (Daytona Beach, Florida)

    What is the unauthorized practice of law? What exactly is the practice of law anyways? If I try to represent myself in court or represent someone else am I legally allowed to do this or would I be committing a crime?

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    Yes and no
    by: Florida Nonlawyers, Inc.

    You can represent people in certain administrative proceedings including Social Security cases but generally no is the answer.

    "You can choose an attorney or other qualified individual to represent you. You also can have more than one representative. However, you cannot have someone who has been suspended or disqualified from representing others before the Social Security Administration or who may not, by law, act as a representative.

    Some organizations can help you find a representative or give you free legal services if you qualify. Some representatives do not charge unless you receive benefits. Your Social Security office has a list of organizations that can help you find a representative.

    You can appoint one or more people in a firm, corporation or other organization as your representatives, but you may not appoint the firm, corporation or organization itself.

    After you choose a representative,you must tell us in writing as soon as possible. To do this, get Form SSA-1696-U4, Appointment of Representative, Get Accessible Adobe Acrobat Reader from our website at www.socialsecurity.gov or from any Social Security office.

    You must give the name of the individual you are appointing and sign your name. If the individual is not an attorney, he or she also must sign the form.

    What your representative may charge you:

    To charge you a fee for services, your representative first must file either a fee agreement or a fee petition with us."
    source: Soc Sec Admin

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    Can I get in trouble for helping someone?

    Hello FALDP,

    I came across a story earlier about a lady named Rosemary Thurman sic and how she used to help people with legal documents.  However I see that she was jailed for doing so and I was wondering why this happened or if it would happen to me if I decided to help people prepare legal documents.

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    In Trouble for Helping
    by: FALDP Staff

    Dear Trouble,
    The short answer is: It depends. First, the lady's name was "Rosemary Furman", not Thurman. Second, she did not actually go to jail, but she nearly did. Her case was back in the late seventies/ early eighties. The laws have changed since then. Please read more about Ms. Thurman on our site. The first things to remember to avoid getting in trouble for trying to help someone, and being accused of the unauthorized practice of law, is that you must always make sure that whoever you are helping knows perfectly well that you are not an attorney. Be careful not to say anything that may even sound like legal advice. Read more on this site about the unauthorized practice of law (UPL) also.

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