John Smith is a US citizen who is ordinarily a resident of California who is not and never has been admitted to the bar in any jurisdiction. He is travelling in the UK, and gives legal advice on British law over the Internet to Jane Doe, another US citizen, who is in California.
Under the Legal Services Act 2007, giving legal advice is not a reserved activity and thus no crime is committed by Smith in the UK.
In California, however, practicing law without a license is an offence under sections 6125-6133 of the California Business and Professions Code. The relevant statute states:
No person shall practice law in California unless the person is an active member of the State Bar.
Smith is not physically in California. However, does giving advice over the Internet to a person in California amount to being punishable under this statute? Furthermore, do any of the following variations, or combinations thereof, substantially change the answer?
- Smith gives legal advice on California law, not British law.
- As a variation on this, Smith gives legal advice on California law to Doe, who is in Nevada, not California.
- Smith is a US citizen who is ordinarily a resident of Massachusetts, and has never been to California.
- Smith uses a different method of communication (e.g. a phone).
I suggest California as a jurisdiction for purely arbitrary reasons; if a different state is easier to answer for (or is unusual compared to the rest of the US), that would also be interesting to know.