Unauthorized Practice of Law in PA

William Hoffmeyer Discusses Unauthorized Practice of Law in Legal Intelligencer

William F. Hoffmeyer, EsquireUnauthorized practice of law is a serious problem in Pennsylvania. William Hoffmeyer is considered one of the leaders in the subject, as can be seen by his discussion of the subject with Lizzy McLellan of the Legal Intelligencer.  In fact, Mr. Hoffmeyer is co-chair of the Pennsylvania Bar Association’s Unauthorized Practice of Law Committee. In 1997, he received the prestigious Pennsylvania Bar Medal for his work in preventing the unauthorized practice of law.

Recently, Ms. McLellan spoke to Mr. Hoffmeyer about issues concerning Avvo, Rocket Lawyer and LegalZoom and the future of these organizations here in Pennsylvania. In 2010, the UPL Committee reviewed LegalZoom, a company people use to obtain various legal forms, and found that it was engaging in the unauthorized practice of law. The Committee plans on revisiting the issue soon.

Why Unauthorized Practice of Law Matters to You

Attorneys in Pennsylvania are required to attend an American Bar Association approved law school, pass a character and fitness background check, pass a difficult bar exam, and also pass an ethics test. In addition, once approved to practice law, we attorneys are required to take an oath. That oath requires us to follow the law and our ethics rules.

Protecting Our Clients

The reason for these stringent requirements is to protect members of the public. To make certain that when you retain counsel to represent you, whether it be in a divorce or drafting a will, those attorneys are qualified to assist you. Practicing law is not just about being able to read a statute and fill in forms. Rather, it is about knowing what questions to ask you, understanding your unique and personal needs, and making sure that our representation addresses your specific requirements and meets your needs. It is our training and experience, as attorneys, that allow us to make certain to represent you properly.

Those without the proper training and experience do not have the background, education, or knowledge to provide you the kind of representation that assures you that your legal needs are being met.

Consider a Will

As we have written before, everybody needs a will. It may seem easier and cheaper to go to an organization where you just fill out a form online. The problem with such wills, however, is that no form can ask you the kind of questions a lawyer can. A form cannot ask you whether you have family members who are likely to challenge your will. Or if there are unique considerations in your family that require you to take care in setting up specialized trusts. Attorneys are called counselors at law for a reason. We maintain a human element, in combination with our training and experience, that enables us to properly assist our clients.

Make Sure You Choose a Licensed Attorney

Whenever you seek to retain counsel, make certain you are hiring an actual attorney. Check on the Pennsylvania Disciplinary Board’s website. Also, look for any history of public discipline. You can find this information on the PDB’s site. Keep in mind that unauthorized practice of law is a crime in Pennsylvania. But more importantly for you, someone who is not properly trained and does not have the right experience, is not going to be able to provide you with the kind of representation that you need.

Hoffmeyer & Semmelman has several locations with lawyers in York, Shrewsbury, and Mt. Wolf.

© Copyright by Hoffmeyer & Semmelman LLP, August 2017