Unauthorized Practice of Law


FAQ's on the Unauthorized Practice of Law

By statute, only active members of the North Carolina State Bar and professional corporations properly registered and qualified as law firms are permitted to practice law in North Carolina. N.C. Gen. Stat. §§ 84-4 and 84-5. The Authorized Practice Committee is a standing committee of the State Bar charged with addressing allegations of unauthorized practice. The “purpose of the committee on the authorized practice of law is to protect the public from being unlawfully advised and represented in legal matters by unqualified persons.” 27 N.C. Admin. Code 1D § .0201.

An allegation of unauthorized practice is sent to the Authorized Practice Committee’s staff counsel, who are deputy counsel in the State Bar’s Office of Counsel. When the allegation, if proven, would constitute the unauthorized practice of law, staff counsel send a letter of notice asking the person or entity involved to provide a written response to the allegation. Staff counsel may also conduct any necessary investigation. Staff counsel submit a report to the Committee. The Committee determines whether there is probable cause to believe the respondent engaged in unauthorized practice and how the State Bar should respond. The powers and duties of the Committee are listed at 27 N.C. Admin. Code 1D § .0206.

Unfortunately, instances of the unauthorized practice of law have increased over the last few years as members of the public seek what they believe are more affordable legal products and services. Unscrupulous or unknowing individuals and companies seek to profit from that perceived need. While the unauthorized practice of law takes a variety of forms, some arenas are more common than others. People who are not licensed to practice law and corporations operating over the Internet prepare legal documents of all kinds, including deeds, divorce complaints, contracts and wills. Numerous enterprises offer representation and legal document preparation in immigration and bankruptcy cases. Numerous websites claim they will get debt reduced or prevent foreclosure. The actions of these people and entities often hurt rather than help. The Authorized Practice Committee will continue to protect the public by investigating and prosecuting the unauthorized practice of law.

Upcoming Meeting Agenda and Notes from Most Recent Committee Meeting

Guidelines for Out of State Attorneys Seeking to Practice in North Carolina

Authorized Practice Advisory Opinions

2002-1 (On the Role of Laypersons in the Consummation of Residential Real Estate Transactions)

2006-1 (Appearances at Quasi-judicial Hearings on Zoning and Land Use)

Recent Injunctions

The North Carolina State Bar v. Lighthouse Title Agency, Inc., et. al.
The North Carolina State Bar v. Robert Kolodner, et. al.
The North Carolina State Bar v. Leapfrog Enterprises, et al (aka "We the People")
The North Carolina State Bar v. The Closing Place, et. al.
The North Carolina State Bar v. Dennis Lockett dba Charlotte Immigration Services

Recent Committee Letters of Interest:

Max Default Services (Foreclosures)
Priority Trustee Services (Foreclosures)
Priority Abstractors and Title Services (Foreclosures and Paralegals)
The Closing Place (Real Estate)
Representation before Boards of Adjustment

Link to Rules of Professional Conduct - Rule 5.5 Unauthorized Practice of Law

Unauthorized Practice of Law Statutes

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