Is it Illegal to Impersonate a Lawyer? Everything You Need to Know
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The actual response is yes, it is illegal to impersonate a lawyer. On the other hand, the answer to this question is dependent on the region where you reside, as well as the context involved. As it’s obtainable in many other professions, lawyers must get the appropriate license before engaging in law practice. Although the rules and steps for getting a law license differ for each state, it is a huge crime to impersonate a lawyer in every state.
Furthermore, you will be liable for a criminal offense if you create a law office, display false certificates, and participate in legal proceedings in a courtroom. It is also illegal to impersonate a lawyer to get diverse economic benefits or make money. Come along as we elaborate more on this below.
Activities that can be termed as an act of impersonating a lawyer
If you are not a qualified lawyer, there are chances that you are impersonating one to appear legal before your clients. At this point, engaging in the following activities can be termed as impersonating a lawyer:
1. Representing clients in court
You will be liable for lawyer impersonation if you represent clients in court without obtaining the appropriate qualifications. Furthermore, negotiating on behalf of another person on legal grounds will be termed impersonation if you do not possess proper legal qualifications.
2. Providing legal advice
Another act that can make you guilty of impersonating a lawyer is to provide legal advice without adequate qualifications. Even if you work in the law court as a clerical staff, the act of giving legal advice to others will term you an impersonator of lawyers.
3. Providing legal documents to clients without the right seal
A major duty of fully qualified lawyers is to provide legal documents to clients using their law seal. On the other hand, individuals who are not qualified lawyers usually use fake seals on the documents they offer to their unsuspecting clients. In future disputes, this act of impersonation will likely be figured out. And this will also have immense consequences for the impersonator.
Consequences of Impersonating a Lawyer
The consequences of impersonating a lawyer are quite immense, thus making indulgence in such an act worthless. Some of these include:
You can earn a probation sentence if caught while impersonating a lawyer. At this point, you will be subjected to stiff rules, such as reporting to a probation officer regularly, paying huge probationary fines, and staying off your job.
2. Serving a jail term
Individuals who impersonate lawyers usually serve jail terms, although this is dependent on the rules of the state where the crime was committed. If you earn a conviction for a misdemeanor, you can serve a jail term of one year. On the other hand, convictions involving felonies usually entail up to 6 years in jail.
In some cases, impersonators of lawyers usually refund any payments they earlier received from their victims. Typically, THE ACT OF Restitution is only a part of the punishment you incur upon impersonating a lawyer. The major aim is to cushion the effects of this illegal act on your victims.
4. Suspension from the court or state bar association
In some cases, licensed lawyers also engage in the act of impersonation. This usually occurs when a lawyer impersonates another licensed lawyer outside his jurisdiction or state.
At this point, the state bar association or presiding court may withdraw the license of the guilty lawyer. In extreme cases, the punishment for such impersonation may include indefinite suspension from all activities related to law administration.
Tips to Avoid Impersonating a Lawyer
Impersonating a lawyer comes with diverse consequences, as highlighted above. Thus, it’s best to avoid being guilty through the following tips:
I. Understand the law
To avoid being guilty of lawyer impersonation, it’s best to understand the laws applicable in your area of operation. This will help you to only take up tasks that you have the right qualifications for.
II. Ask for assistance
There are possibilities that you may have some grey areas regarding the practice and administration of law. At this point, it’s best to ask for assistance from a qualified attorney.
The best way to find a suitable attorney is to check with local aid firms or the state bar. Furthermore, you can verify the license of any lawyer you desire to work with through the state bar association. This will help to prevent any case of impersonation.
III. Prioritize honesty
The consequences of impersonating a lawyer are quite grave. And one way to avoid this is to prioritize honesty. It’s best to refer people who approach you for legal services to the right channels if you need to be qualified. Also, please avoid using the seal of another lawyer without their authorization.
Practicing law without the right qualifications can make you liable for impersonation. And this comes with diverse consequences, as highlighted earlier. This can also result in public ridicule of the legal profession. Thus, it’s best to avoid all forms of illegal law practice and prioritize seeking legal aid from only qualified attorneys, as highlighted above.
- “Rule 5.5: Unauthorized Practice of Law; Multijurisdictional Practice of Law”; American Bar Association: http://www.americanbar.org/groups/professional_responsibility/publications/model_rules_of_professional_conduct/rule_5_5_unauthorized_practice_of_law_multijurisdictional_practice_of_law.html
- Jennine Hurl-Eamon, The Westminster imposters: Impersonating law enforcement in early eighteenth-century London: https://www.jstor.org/stable/3005340
I’m a driven and accomplished law graduate and post-graduate, passionate about sharing my legal expertise via my blog. I hold a Bachelor’s degree in Law from the University of London (UK) and a Master’s in Law from the University of Derby (UK). Both gave me the foundational knowledge and skills to excel in my chosen career path.
Throughout my academic journey, I have gained extensive knowledge in various fields of Law, including Corporate and Business Law in the USA, Criminal Law, International Law, US Copyright law, and most importantly, American Constitutional law.