Punishment for Practicing Law without a License
After months of waiting, anxious California bar exam-takers finally received their results on the evening of Nov. 21. With a 48.6% pass rate, the results to this past summer’s exam were among the lowest pass-rates in the past decade. 1 Even though 4,315 applicants passed the bar exam, these individuals must wait to swear-in to the Supreme Court of California before they can receive their license to practice law. Although it is tempting to practice law, especially if you had extensive training during law school, there are major consequences if you practice law without a license.
You Must be a Member of the State Bar of California to Practice Law
In 1927, California passed the State Bar Act, which was the first effort in regulating the legal profession. The Act, which laid the foundations for the modern State Bar of California, set statutory standards for the practice of law, including the requirement of membership in the State Bar in order to practice law in California.
Today, this requirement is codified in California’s Business and Professions Code Section 6125, which states that no person shall practice law in California unless the person is an active member of the state bar.
What is the “Practice of Law”?
Because there is no bright line definition for the practice of law, some people might not be sure what “practicing law” entails. For example, lawyers work with contracts all the time but non-lawyers enter and enforce contracts everyday whenever someone purchases an item in a store. The practice of law includes providing legal advice, legal instrument and contract preparation regardless of whether such service is provided during the course of litigation. 2 Although broad, the definition of the practice of law allows California to maximize its ability to protect its citizens from the wrongs arising from the unauthorized practice of law.
Practicing Law Without a License
Because the definition of the practice of law is so broad, you may think that the unlawful practice of law without a license might be just as broad. However, the unlawful practice of law can easily be broken down into the following categories:
- Advertising yourself as an attorney who is practicing law, but are not an active member of the State Bar
- Practicing law when being involuntarily classified as an inactive member of the State Bar or suspended from membership of the State Bar 3
Punishment for the Unlawful Practice of Law
You may think that the consequences of unlawfully practicing law are fairly light. However, the punishment is quite severe.
Advertising Yourself as an Attorney or Practicing Law If You Are Not an Active Member of the State Bar
You are guilty of a misdemeanor if you advertise yourself as an attorney or practice law if you are not a member of the state bar. This crime is punishable by up to one year in a county jail and a fine of up to $1,000. 4
Practicing Law when you are Involuntarily Classified as an Inactive Member or Suspended
If you practice law when you are involuntarily classified as an inactive member or suspended from practicing law, you are guilty of a crime punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for a period up to six months. However, you could also be charged with a felony punishable by 16 months, two or three years in a county jail. 5
Call Wallin & Klarich Today
If you or someone you know is accused of practicing law without a license, you need to speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. At Wallin & Klarich, we have been successfully defending our clients facing criminal charges for over 40 years. Our attorneys have the skill and experience necessary to help you obtain the best possible outcome in your case.
With offices located in Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Torrance, Orange County, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina and Victorville, there is an experienced Wallin & Klarich criminal defense attorney available to help you no matter where you work or live.
Call us today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free phone consultation. We will get through this together.
1. [The State Bar of California.http://www.calbar.ca.gov/AboutUs/News/ThisYearsNewsReleases/201426.aspx]↩
2. [People v. Merchants Protective Corp. (1922) 189 Cal. 531,535]↩
3. [CA Business and Professions Code Section 6126]↩
4. [CA Business and Professions Code Section 6126(a)]↩
5. [CA Business and Professions Code Section 6126(b)]↩