• FOR THE PUBLIC
  • FOR LAWYERS
  • LICENSING & COMPLIANCE
  • NEWS & PUBLICATIONS
  • ABOUT US

Problems with Nonlawyers

What should I do if I am harmed by a nonlawyer acting like a lawyer?

What is the purpose of investigating and prosecuting someone engaged in the unauthorized practice of law?

How do I file a complaint (or charge) with the State Bar of Arizona regarding a nonlawyer?

Do I have to pay a fee to file a charge (or complaint) about a nonlawyer engaged in the unauthorized practice of law?

What happens after I submit a charge (or complaint)?

If I suffer a loss as a result of the unauthorized practice of law, can the State Bar get my money back?

If I file a charge (or complaint), will there be a trial?

What sanctions can be imposed against a nonlawyer engaged in the unauthorized practice of law?

Will the nonlawyer know about my charge (or complaint)?

Are records regarding unauthorized practice of law cases open to the public?

 

What should I do if I am harmed by a nonlawyer acting like a lawyer?

The State Bar of Arizona has the authority to investigate and prosecute nonlawyers who engage in the unauthorized practice of law. Whether you are harmed or not, you may wish to file a charge (or complaint) regarding the conduct of the nonlawyer. The State Bar will review the allegations and determine whether it is appropriate to investigate and seek sanctions against the person or entity that has engaged in the unauthorized practice of law. Alternatively, the State Bar may refer the matter to the Arizona Office of the Attorney General, a United States Bankruptcy Trustee, the Certified Legal Document Preparer Program or some other agency.

What is the purpose of investigating and prosecuting someone engaged in the unauthorized practice of law?

Protection of the public is the primary goal of the enforcement of the unauthorized practice of law rules. The courts can prevent an individual or company from continuing to engage in the unauthorized practice of law by obtaining a cease and desist order or permanent injunction in superior court.

The State Bar of Arizona, as an administrative agency, does not and cannot give you legal advice. Nor can the State Bar assist you in obtaining or recovering monetary damages other than restitution. In appropriate cases, the court may enter an order of restitution that directs an individual or company to pay a specific monetary amount to the person who paid for the nonlawyer’s legal advice. Restitution is based on the funds paid to the nonlawyer for legal services. Any other loss you may have sustained as a result of the conduct of a nonlawyer cannot be recovered through an unauthorized practice of law proceeding. If you suffered a financial or property loss that is not compensable through restitution, your rights must be enforced through normal legal procedures against the person or entity responsible for the loss. In those situations, you may wish to consult with private counsel, or report the matter to a law enforcement agency if you believe a crime has been committed.

The State Bar has no authority to review a court order or ruling in a particular case. The State Bar’s unauthorized practice of law system should not be used as a substitute for an appeal in such cases.

How do I file a complaint (or charge) with the State Bar of Arizona regarding a nonlawyer?

You may submit allegations regarding the unauthorized practice of law to the State Bar of Arizona at 4201 North 24th Street, Suite 100, Phoenix, Arizona, 85016-6266, or by telephone at 602-340-7280.  Be certain to provide the State Bar with your name, address and telephone number, as well as the name, address and telephone number of the nonlawyer. Please provide specific facts supporting your allegations that someone has engaged in the unauthorized practice of law. Also, please provide copies of any court papers, documents, letters or other materials that support your allegations. Please do not send original documents. You can obtain a charge (or complaint) form by calling 602-340-7280, requesting one by email sent to lawyerinfo@staff.azbar.org

Do I have to pay a fee to file a charge (or complaint) about a nonlawyer engaged in the unauthorized practice of law?

No. There is no cost or fee to submit a charge (or complaint) against a nonlawyer. However, you may be required to attend court hearings and testify at trial.

What happens after I submit a charge (or complaint)?What happens after I submit a charge (or complaint)?

All charges (or complaints) alleging the unauthorized practice of law are initially reviewed by State Bar Intake personnel in the Lawyer Regulation Office of the State Bar of Arizona. Charges are initially reviewed to determine whether the State Bar has jurisdiction to investigate the allegations. If the State Bar has jurisdiction, the charge is reviewed by State Bar Intake staff. In some cases, the charge (or complaint) will be assigned to a State Bar investigator. Unauthorized Practice of Law Counsel will review the information provided by the complaining party and the nonlawyer to determine whether the State Bar can prove the unauthorized practice of law by clear and convincing evidence. In some cases, the charge will be prosecuted in superior court.

If I suffer a loss as a result of the unauthorized practice of law, can the State Bar get my money back?

The State Bar is authorized to seek an order of restitution in appropriate cases. If a complaint (or lawsuit) is filed in superior court, the State Bar may request restitution. If a restitution order is entered by the court, the State Bar cannot assist in the enforcement of the order or collect the court-ordered restitution. In some cases, the unauthorized practice of law charges may be resolved by the nonlawyer and the State Bar entering into a consent agreement that includes restitution to the complaining party. The State Bar, however, cannot promise such a result.

If I file a charge (or complaint), will there be a trial?

If the State Bar determines litigation is appropriate, Unauthorized Practice of Law Counsel will file a complaint (or lawsuit) in superior court against the nonlawyer. If no agreement is reached between the State Bar and the nonlawyer, a trial may be required.

A judge of the superior court will consider all relevant evidence at trial, which may include your testimony and the testimony of the nonlawyer and other witnesses. When a trial is completed, the assigned judge will decide whether the State Bar has proven the unauthorized practice of law by clear and convincing evidence and determine what sanction should be imposed. The court’s final ruling will be in the form of a final judgment and order.

What sanctions can be imposed against a nonlawyer engaged in the unauthorized practice of law?

If the State Bar determines the conduct (a) does not amount to the unauthorized practice of law; (b) was an isolated incident that is not likely to be repeated or result in future public harm; (c) the individual is no longer in Arizona; or (d) the complaining party does not wish to cooperate with the investigation, the State Bar will close the case.

If the State Bar determines the nonlawyer has engaged in the unauthorized practice of law and that the activity is likely to continue, the State Bar may ask the nonlawyer to sign a consent agreement that can be entered as an order of the court. In that event, the nonlawyer must acknowledge that the conduct amounted to the unauthorized practice of law and agree to refrain from engaging in such conduct in the future. A consent agreement will result in the entry of a final judgment and order prohibiting the person or entity from engaging in the unauthorized practice of law. An order of restitution may also be included in a final judgment and order.

If the conduct involves the unauthorized practice of law and the nonlawyer chooses not to enter into a consent agreement, the State Bar may file a civil complaint (or lawsuit) in superior court seeking a cease and desist order and permanent injunction that prohibits the nonlawyer from continuing to engage in the unauthorized practice of law. The State Bar can file for the entry of an order of contempt by the superior court if a nonlawyer fails to comply with a cease and desist order or permanent injunction.

If the nonlawyer’s conduct appears to violate a consumer fraud statute or amount to a crime, the State Bar may refer the matter to the Arizona Office of the Attorney General for their review and investigation. If a nonlawyer’s conduct appears to violate Section 110 of the United States Bankruptcy Code, the matter may be referred to a U.S. Bankruptcy Trustee. Charges (or complaints) that allege the unauthorized practice of law in an immigration matter may be referred to the U.S. Office of Homeland Security.

Will the nonlawyer know about my charge (or complaint)?

Typically, the nonlawyer will be sent a copy of your charge (or complaint) during the State Bar’s investigation. Additionally, if the nonlawyer asks who complained, your name will be given. Anonymity may only be granted in extreme circumstances and should be discussed with Unauthorized Practice of Law Counsel before submitting a charge (or complaint).

Are records regarding unauthorized practice of law cases open to the public?

Yes, once a charge (or complaint) is reviewed and a case opened by the State Bar, the State Bar’s file is open to the public pursuant to Arizona Supreme Court Rule 80(b). Certain matters may be sealed from the public, but that is the exception to the general rule that all documents are public in nature. You should consult Supreme Court Rule 80(b) to determine what information is available to the public and how to seek an order sealing information.

Y