Joe in state A asks a question online: "I did _____. Is it legal? What are the consequences? What should I do?" Jake in state B responds in a manner which, while entirely okay according to state B's UPL rules, clearly falls under state A's definition of UPL. Is Jake guilty of the unauthorized practice of law?

1 Answer 1


Joe does not have to exist or have asked a question: the issue can be reduced to the (dubious) premise that there is at least 1 state (A), not one (B) that Jake is in, where Jake's reply would constitute UPL. Jake is not guilty of UPL, because Jake is not in jurisdiction A. Analogously, if Jake in state B renounces his religion online, which is the crime of apostasy in country Z, Jake is not guilty of apostasy.

  • 2
    There are some laws that operate extraterritoriality but this probably isn't one of them. Apostasy probably is though.
    – Dale M
    Commented Jun 30, 2017 at 2:35
  • 1
    If Jake makes a public statement about Joe online which is defamatory in Joe's jurisdiction but not in Jake's, he can in theory be held liable in the courts of Joe's jurisdiction (for, and correct me if I'm wrong, both criminal and civil defamation). Why doesn't the same principle apply to online UPL? Commented Jun 30, 2017 at 3:32
  • To be prosecuted for a crime defines in jurisdiction A, Jake has to be in jurisdiction A. A tort action between two citizens overcomes the main jurisdictional limit, though forum selection can lead to different outcomes.
    – user6726
    Commented Jun 30, 2017 at 14:52
  • Marijuana and its advertising marijuana is illegal in some states e.g. DE, GA, MT; it is legal in others e.g. WA, CO. A Washington online advertiser cannot be prosecuted for an act that would violate MT law because the advertisement is on the web.
    – user6726
    Commented Jun 30, 2017 at 15:34
  • On the other hand, consider that Jake is actively soliciting improper legal business in state A through a medium of remote communication (internet, telephone, mail, what have you). Would state A really be unable to pursue Jake for UPL?
    – phoog
    Commented Jun 30, 2017 at 16:47

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .