Unauthorized Practice of Law
Who can practice law in Montana?
Only attorneys licensed and admitted to practice law in the State of Montana may practice law in Montana.
Can paralegals or legal assistants help me with my legal case?
No. Some paralegals do have private businesses where they contract their services to attorneys, but paralegals may not give legal advice, accept cases, set or charge fees, appear in court, make legal decisions or plan strategies of a case. That being said, paralegals do play an important role in law offices and can assist clients while working under the direct supervision of an attorney. The only thing a nonlawyer can do legally for you is sell you a pre-printed form and type in the information that you provide to them. They cannot tell you what information you should put on the form or what type of form to use. They cannot help you fill it out. Basically, the nonlawyer can act as a secretary or typist.
Why shouldn’t I hire someone who says they know what they’re doing if they can prepare my forms for less than the attorney?
In addition to graduating from law school and passing the Bar exam, attorneys in Montana are required to meet stringent character and fitness standards and meet continuing education requirements. Someone offering to prepare your paperwork may have little or no legal education and may cause irreparable harm by providing incorrect information, forms and advice. The unauthorized practice of law is really a consumer protection issue. Clients have certain protections when they have problems with a lawyer, but there is little recourse for harm done by a non-lawyer.
But what if I can’t afford to hire a lawyer?
For those who can’t afford a lawyer, there are both state and community based legal programs in different areas throughout the State. A list of those legal resources and more can be found on our Research and Resources page. There are also excellent free forms and easy to understand information covering many different areas of law that can be easily accessed on the web at MontanaLawHelp and on the State Law Library’s site.
What if this person says they're a lawyer, but something just doesn't feel right? How do I check whether someone's licensed to practice law?
You can check on our home page under the 'Member Search' which has a complete list of every attorney who has ever had a license to practice law in Montana. You may also contact the State Bar at (406) 442-7660 to ask about an attorney's status.
How do I file a complaint for the unauthorized practice of law?
By Order of the Supreme Court dated April 20, 2010, the UPL Commission was dissolved. All complaints about unauthorized practice should be directed to the Montana Office of Consumer Protection at (800) 481-6896.
See Opinion & Order here
The State Bar of Montana will continue to assist with complaints against attorneys licensed in other states who are practicing in Montana. For more information, please contact:
P.O. Box 577
Helena MT 59624