Legal Memorandum: Unlawful Practice of Law in WA

Issue: Is a paralegal engaged in the ‘unauthorized practice of law,’ under Washington law?

Area of Law: Ethics & Professional Responsibility, Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Unlawful practice of law; Paralegal; Legal provider
Jurisdiction: Washington
Cited Cases: 996 P.2d 371; 675 P.2d 193; 624 N.E.2d 288; 586 P.2d 870; 880 P.2d 96; 780 F. Supp. 1349; 942 P.2d 793; 75 Wash. App. 795; 874 P.2d 806; 909 S.W.2d 768; 470 S.E.2d 539; 902 P.2d 686; 100 Wash. 2d 581; 883 S.W.2d 293; 642 N.E.2d 102
Cited Statutes: Wash. Rev. Code § 2.48.180(2), § 2.48.180(2)(d), (e) (Supp. 2000)
Date: 09/01/2000

The unauthorized practice of law in violation of a Washington statute is defined by a statute that provides, in pertinent part, that

[t]he following constitutes unlawful practice of law:

.  .  .

  (d) A legal provider holds an investment or ownership interest in a business primarily engaged in the practice of law, knowing that a nonlawyer holds an investment or ownership interest in the business; [or]

  (e) A nonlawyer shares legal fees with a legal provider.

Wash. Rev. Code § 2.48.180(2)(d), (e) (Supp. 2000). 

The statute states that the unauthorized practice of law includes holding oneself out as entitled to practice law; having an ownership interest in a law practice; being a nonlawyer, sharing fees with a lawyer; or working for a business engaged in the practice of law knowing that a nonlawyer has an ownership interest in the business.  Wash. Rev. Code § 2.48.180(2). 

To reach a conclusion about whether someone is engaged in the practice of law, see the court of appeals case of State v. Hunt, 75 Wash. App. 795, 880 P.2d 96 (1994).  In Hunt, the court considered and upheld the constitutionality of the unauthorized practice of law statute.  It referenced Washington case law that defines […]

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