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Practice of law

In its most general sense, the practice of law involves giving legal advice to clients, drafting legal documents for clients, and representing clients in legal negotiations and court proceedings such as lawsuits, and is applied to the professional services of a lawyer, attorney at law, barrister, solicitor or civil law notary. However, there is a substantial amount of overlap between the practice of law and various other professions where clients are represented by agents. These professions include real estate, banking, accounting, and insurance. Moreover, a growing number of independent paralegals are offering services which have traditionally been offered only by lawyers and their employee paralegals, and many documents may now be drafted by computer assisted drafting libraries where the clients are asked a series of questions posed by the software in order to construct the legal documents.

In the United States, the practice of law is conditioned upon admission to the bar of a particular state or other territorial jurisdiction. The unauthorized practice of law is prohibited by statute or court rules in every state but Arizona. Definitions of the legal term "unauthorized practice of law" vary across jurisdictions so the use of independent paralegals in California is tolerated to a high degree, whereas in New York state most of the activities these paralegals are licensed to do in California are considered the "unauthorized practice of law". While there are cases of the individuals being arrested for the unauthorized practice of law, absent fraud, or other violations of consumer protection, most states focus their enforcement resources on regulating the ethical conduct of attorneys. The internet has also made it possible for paralegals who are licensed in one state to provide services to others in different states.

See also