UPL – The Unlicensed Practice of Law

UPL – The Unlicensed Practice of Law. Every once in a while, I will run into somebody that has gotten some supremely, bad legal advice. Whether from a friend or a colleague or somebody that doesn’t really practice the type of law that they need advice for. But, sometimes that bad advice crosses the line into what’s called unlicensed practice of law. So what is UPL or unlicensed practice of law? Well stick around and we’ll talk about that just after this.

Happy Friday everybody. Hope you’re all having a great week. And this week, like I’d said just a minute ago, we’re going to talk about UPL or the unlicensed practice of law. So what is that? Well, it’s really just what it sounds like. It’s when somebody is practicing law without a license. Now, everybody knows that if you’re a lawyer that goes to court and you stand in front of a jury or you stand in front of a judge and you’re making arguments, you’re obviously practicing law. But there are a lot of other things that people can do that really cross into that realm of practicing law without a license. A big one that happens a lot is if people are out there drafting forms, legal forms, that they found on Google or some search engine, and then passing that off to their friend as, “Hey, here’s the form you need. Here is the motion that you need to file.”

And that can be, in the right circumstances, considered them practicing law without a license. So why is that a problem? Why shouldn’t people just be able to use Google or the internet or their friend to try to get legal advice? Well, the biggest reason as you might imagine is just like you wouldn’t let an unlicensed doctor operate on you or a loved one. You don’t want to let an unlicensed attorney try to practice law on your behalf because the damage that can be caused can be catastrophic and long lasting. I do a lot of appeals and a lot of appellate work. And a lot of times the messes that I’m trying to sort out after the fact, are messes that were caused by a lawyer that was either not doing what they were supposed to be doing or doing something that they weren’t quite comfortable with. They didn’t know quite enough about.

And so if you have somebody that isn’t trained in that particular area of the law trying to come in and help you and draft legal filings and draft motions, there are certain things that if they don’t know any better, either can be missed or can be waived, or could just completely, completely skipped. And through no fault of your own, now you’ve got a whole universe of remedies that are not available to you, and you’re going to be stuck with a legal result that you didn’t know was coming or didn’t want, right? So that’s a big, big reason.

Recently, I was actually appointed by the State Bar of Texas to serve on the UPL committee, the Unlicensed Practice of Law Committee, where I investigate claims of people that are engaging in this unlicensed practice of law. And I do what I can to try to stop it, because ultimately the only people that are getting hurt when somebody is out there practicing law without a license, is the client, okay? They’re receiving legal advice that is generally speaking, not top notch. It is not the legal advice that they would receive from a licensed and a practicing attorney.

And so ultimately they’re the ones that are going to suffer the consequences because when the court comes back and say, they’re either going to get their case dismissed and they can’t refile it, or they’re suffering the wrath of a conviction that now they can’t get sealed. The person that gave them that legal advice is generally nowhere to be found. They’re gone. They’re in the wind. They don’t have to suffer those consequences, the client does. And so ultimately my job and my hope is to nip that in the bud. To stop it from happening, because ultimately, like I said, it’s the client that suffers.

So remember if you’re out there, if you’re facing a legal problem, it’s very, very tempting to go to Google, to go to a friend, to go to somebody and say, “Hey, if you’ve been through this, can you give me any tips and advice?” And that’s all well and good. It’s great to have that support system and to get sources of information from various places. But just remember that you still need a lawyer to vet that advice, to run that advice through, and they can tell you whether or not that advice is sound, or if there are some flaws there. It’s super, super important because I don’t want you to have to come and hire me after the fact to try to fix that mess that they got you into.

Hope that helps. Hope that gives you a little bit of insight into UPL, what that is and why it really matters. Again, just like every topic, I could go on for hours about this, but I won’t. So if there’s any topics that you want to see me cover in a future video, if there’s any questions that you have about this or any of the previous videos that I’ve done, please feel free. Leave a comment below, or probably, even better. Shoot me an email, give me a call at my office and I’m happy to discuss those with you at that time. I hope you all have a great weekend and I look forward to seeing you all next week.

Author Bio

James P. Whalen

James P. Whalen is the managing attorney and founder of Whalen Law Office, a Texas criminal defense firm offering personalized legal representation for various federal criminal charges. With a commitment to providing comfort and guidance during challenging times, Mr. Whalen serves as both an attorney and counselor to his clients, helping them navigate their cases while striving to restore normalcy to their lives.

In an inherently unbalanced criminal justice system, Mr. Whalen takes on cases with unwavering dedication. With decades of legal experience, he offers representation across various criminal charges, including white-collar crimes, violent crimes, drug charges, and more. Mr. Whalen’s numerous accolades, including Super Lawyer recognition and board certification in Criminal Appellate Law and Criminal Law, reflect his unwavering commitment to ethical and high-quality legal representation.

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