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Michigan an unauthorized practice of law

Northville, MI |
Filed under: Professional ethics

I have a power of attorney and been responding to court documents on behalf of this person I have the power of attorney for. I am not an attorney. The attorney for the other party in the case said he is filing a motion for sanctions against me for the unauthorized practice of law. I never said I was an attorney, the court and the attorney both know I have the power of attorney to act on behalf, and I only been responding to the documents. I don't understand how this can be. Am I not suppose to respond to anything to let him win? Can I sanction him for harassing me? Please let me know.

Attorney Answers 2


Unfortunately, the term "power of attorney" can be very confusing. Although the term "attorney" is included in the title "power of attorney" it does not give you authority to provide legal representation on behalf of another person.

Q. What is the unauthorized practice of law?

A. When a person or company says or does something on behalf of another person that involves legal discretion or making a decision about legal matters, that is the practice of law. It is the unauthorized practice of law for a person to exercise legal discretion on behalf of another person, or practice law for another person, when they are not legally authorized to do so.

Q. Can a person who is not a lawyer draft documents or help me with my case?

A. In Michigan, the only individuals who can draft legal documents for other people or give legal advice are lawyers licensed to practice law in Michigan.

Q. Do I need a lawyer or can I do it myself?

A. Under the law, a person is always entitled to represent himself. It is often difficult to represent yourself in all but the most simple of cases. You may also jeopardize important legal rights if not properly advised by an attorney.

If you have been drafting documents in response to pleadings filed by the opposing side in a lawsuit, then you committing the unauthorized practice of law. Only a licensed lawyer can draft legal pleadings, negotiate a settlement, or represent another person in court because of these tasks all require legal knowledge and legal discretion.

It does NOT matter if you disclosed that you are not a licensed attorney. If it were sufficient to simply tell the court that you are not an actual attorney, then that would be a major loophole and tons of non-lawyers would represent others in court or draft legal documents. That would be just as harmful as if a person could just warn a patient "I'm not a licensed doctor" and then perform a medical procedure. The law against the unauthorized practice of law is intended to protect people. The person that you are power of attorney for deserves to have a trained and knowledgeable professional defend this case for him or her.

If the person you have power of attorney over cannot represent him or her self, then they must retain an attorney to assist them. Depending on the powers given to you in the power of attorney document you may have the authority to hire a lawyer for him or her.

Unfortunately, the other attorney is correct in filing a motion to prohibit you from continuing to draft pleadings and responses on behalf of the other person. In all likelihood, the judge will order you to quit doing that and let you off with a warning. If you persist, the judge may impose a monetary sanction against you and you could face a lawsuit for the unauthorized practice of law.

Q. How do I find a lawyer?

A.The State Bar of Michigan Lawyer Referral and Information Service (LRS) is designed to assist members of the public who want to hire an attorney and can afford to pay for legal services. You may dial (800) 968-0738 between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, to speak with a lawyer referral representative.

Good luck.

DISCLAIMER: This answer is provided as general information, which may not be appropriate for the specific facts of your particular situation. No attorney-client relationship has been established based on this limited communication. You are advised to consult with an attorney in your jurisdiction before taking any action or inaction that may affect your legal rights.

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There is a simple solution to your problem. You may use your power of attorney to retain counsel on behalf of your friend.

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