Attorney practicing without license - what can I do against him?
June 10, 2007 6:55 PM   Subscribe

In California, what penalties (civil, administrative, or criminal) might face a "lawyer" who advertises and practices as a lawyer without actually having a license? If I know of such a lawyer, how should I go about reporting him or suing him?
posted by Kimpossible to Law & Government (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The agency that licences lawyers would be the one that prosecutes those practising law without a licence
posted by winston at 7:05 PM on June 10, 2007

The California Bar Association is who is responsible. There are criminal penalties for doing what you describe, most often a charge akin to "practicing law without a license." You can find out how to file a complaint here.
posted by plaidrabbit at 7:09 PM on June 10, 2007

This person isn't just dispensing legal advise; he (she?) is profiting from misrepresenting himself to consumers. Doesn't that take it a step beyond practicing w/o license? Why wouldn't it be criminal fraud?

I bet the district attorney would be interested in getting a call.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 7:33 PM on June 10, 2007

send a letter to the state bar association and cc the district attorney and the police.
posted by thinkingwoman at 7:36 PM on June 10, 2007

Seconding the "district attourney" suggestion. Lawyers hate posers.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:43 PM on June 10, 2007

Unauthorized practice is against both the California Bar Association regulations, and California state law. These are two different things. Therefore, if you want to report this self-proclaimed lawyer, who to contact will depend on who he is: was he a formerly licensed lawyer, but suspended or had his license revoked? Or was he just some random guy who hung out a shingle?

In the former case, the Bar Association would be a good place to start, because he already has a relationship with them and presumably wants to avoid getting himself into more trouble. They can discipline him as necessary, and possibly refer the case to the district attorney or attorney general for prosecution if necessary.

In the latter case, the district attorney and/or attorney general would probably be the one to contact, since the Bar Association can't prosecute anyone (it's just a professional organization, not a branch of government) and therefore holds little sway over non-members.

For what it's worth, it looks like the relevant statute is California Business and Professional Code, section 6126, quoted in part:

a) Any person advertising or holding himself or herself out as practicing or entitled to practice law or otherwise practicing law who is not an active member of the State Bar, or otherwise authorized pursuant to statute or court rule to practice law in this state at the time of doing so, is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in a county jail or by a fine of up to one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both that fine and imprisonment.

(that's just the result of a quick google search, IANAL and IADNACL -- I am definitely not a California lawyer.)

reporting him or suing him

Just FYI, you won't be able to sue this self-proclaimed lawyer unless you personally have standing to do so: i.e. you've been directly damaged by his misrepresentation.
posted by AV at 7:58 PM on June 10, 2007

IAALS, and if I recall correctly, California is one of the few states where one does not need to complete an ABA-approved law school to sit for the bar exam. This fact alone makes me think they'd be especially strict about enforcing false licensing claims.

Might be worth it to register a complaint with the California State Bar Association.
posted by non sum qualis eram at 8:10 PM on June 10, 2007

I have a friend who works on similarish things in San Jose County. If that's where the lawyer's located I can ask him to look into it.
posted by Kattullus at 8:10 PM on June 10, 2007

Please tell me this isn't a case of someone not putting IANAL at the end of a post...
posted by prentiz at 5:58 AM on June 11, 2007

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