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 that a "non-lawyer" can legally do 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, what type of form to use, or fill out the form outside of the information that you provide to them.
Why shouldn't I hire someone who says they know what they're doing if they can prepare my forms for less than an 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 a consumer protection issue, and as such clients have certain protections when they have problems with a lawyer. There is little recourse, however, for harm done by a "non-lawyer."
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 offered throughout Montana. A list of those legal resources can be found on our Research and Resources Page. Free forms and information for various types of law can be also be accessed on the web at Montana Law Help and also on the State Law Library's website.
How do I check that a person is licensed to practice law?
To see if a member is licensed to practice in the State of Montana, visit the Member Directory and type their name into the search bar, and click "Search." This search will only display those attorneys who are licensed and presently authorized to practice law in Montana.
How do I file a complaint for the unauthorized practice of law?
By Order of the Supreme Court dated April 20, 2010, the Unauthorized Practice of Law Commission was dissolved. All complaints about unauthorized practice should be directed to the Montana Office of Consumer Protection. They can be contacted online, or at (800) 481-6896.
The State Bar of Montana will continue to assist with complaints against attorneys licensed in other states who are practicing in Montana.