Say I want to sue someone (or I am being sued by someone) but I neither want to hire a lawyer nor represent myself in person (civil case, not criminal).

Would I be able to hire, for example, a law student to attend hearings, speak on my behalf, present evidence and basically do everything that a lawyer would (except, of course, what can be done by lawyers only)?

Would such a contract with a law student be legal provided that we do not call him "lawyer" and his services "legal services"?

If we win, would I be able to get the other party pay for the fees charged by the student?

Jurisdiction: New Zealand, but also interested if this is feasible in the rest of the West.

  • 1
    Related: What legal powers does a non-lawyer have in England?. Commented Apr 16, 2018 at 9:39
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    Poor law student. If the scheme ever came to light, his nascent legal career would suffer an early demise.
    – A.fm.
    Commented Apr 16, 2018 at 17:40
  • @A.fm. one can study law without intention to have a career in law. Being literate in law pays off by itself.
    – Greendrake
    Commented Apr 16, 2018 at 23:17

3 Answers 3



If they do not earn a reward they can give legal advice but they cannot represent you.

From s24 of the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act

24 Reserved areas of work for lawyers and incorporated law firms

(1) A person commits an offence—

(a) who, for gain or reward (whether direct or indirect) and not being a lawyer or an incorporated law firm, carries out work of a kind described in paragraph (a) of the definition of reserved areas of work (as set out in section 6); or

(b) who, not being a lawyer, carries out work of a kind described in paragraph (b) or paragraph (c) or paragraph (d) of the definition of reserved areas of work (as set out in section 6).

And the definition of reserved work is:

reserved areas of work means the work carried out by a person—

(a) in giving legal advice to any other person in relation to the direction or management of—

(i) any proceedings that the other person is considering bringing, or has decided to bring, before any New Zealand court or New Zealand tribunal; or

(ii) any proceedings before any New Zealand court or New Zealand tribunal to which the other person is a party or is likely to become a party; or

(b) in appearing as an advocate for any other person before any New Zealand court or New Zealand tribunal; or

(c) in representing any other person involved in any proceedings before any New Zealand court or New Zealand tribunal; or

(d) in giving legal advice or in carrying out any other action that, by section 21F of the Property (Relationships) Act 1976 or by any provision of any other enactment, is required to be carried out by a lawyer

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    A court may say "Yes" according to s27(1)(b)(ii).
    – Greendrake
    Commented Apr 16, 2018 at 22:12
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    @Greendrake: that section allows somebody to represent you in court; it does not allow him to bill you (or the other side). Commented Apr 17, 2018 at 10:14

Don't know about New Zealand, but in the United States, any law student who agreed to do this would probably not be worth the money you paid. I don't think any state permits law students to practice the law, and every student knows that. There are some exceptions, but the only ones I know of involve work for the government or nonprofits, and still require supervision by a real lawyer. Doing this would be a great way for the student to ensure that he is not admitted to practice upon graduation.

Fiddling with the wording wouldn't get you any further, either, because the bodies that regulate lawyers take a very broad view of what it means to practice law, The wording you've selected is particularly inadequate, because practicing law is sometimes even defined as "providing legal services." But even if your contract referred to it as "sensual massage" services, the courts are going to look to the substance of the services provided, not the name. And the services you're describing -- appearing at hearings, arguing on your behalf, presenting evidence -- are very classic lawyer activities.

As soon as the student was revealed as a student to the court, the judge would eject him and report him for misconduct.

I believe I have seen some weird situations, though, where a person goes into court, represents himself, and then recovers his expenses. So what I could imagine is a case where a person like that also recovers for an amount paid to a student for more limited services like research and writing.

Still, it would be really risky for the student, because that would still be considered practicing without a license and would really jam him up. The litigant would probably not get in trouble, though I could imagine a judge refusing to award that portion of fees if he found out about the student's involvement.

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    Thanks. What really bugs me is that, while you can represent yourself in court, you cannot delegate it to just anybody you want/trust. Feels like a breach of constitutional rights lobbied by lawyers.
    – Greendrake
    Commented Apr 16, 2018 at 23:10
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    I'm of two minds. The courts are a little overzealous on where they draw the lines, but generally speaking, allowing people who are not trained in the law to represent you is not really any better an idea than allowing people who are not trained in medicine to operate on you. I did an extensive amount of pro se litigation before I went to law school, and I'm comfortable saying that based on what I know now, I had no business arguing in front of a judge back then. There are just too many traps for the unwary to permit any yoohoo to take responsibility for the legal rights of a third party.
    – bdb484
    Commented Apr 17, 2018 at 1:16
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    I would be afraid that while a judge might give some leeway to a pro-se plaintiff or defendant, they would have no mercy with a law student defending you, so any mistake made by that law student could be extremly damaging.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Apr 18, 2018 at 7:26
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    @Greendrake A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. You probably can bring someone to court to provide moral support, but that is on your account. The whole notion of a regulated profession is that only people admitted to it can practice it.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Apr 19, 2018 at 2:06

As well as varying by jurisdiction, this will vary by what you actually want done. There is, for example, no reason why when you go to court you should not have a companion who takes notes of what was said, and makes suggestions as to what you should say. However, if you ask for permission for a non-legal representative to address the court, you will be asked the reason. If you have a good reason, permission will probably be granted; but "He's cheaper than a real lawyer" isn't a good reason. Similarly, if an affidavit or acknowledgement of service is filed, the counter clerks are unlikely to ask whether the filer is yourself or a friend of yours. But the document has to be signed either by yourself or by your (qualified) lawyer. And I know of no area whatever where the losing party has to pay for unqualified advice to the winner (Invoice; Two bottles of red wine, after which I totally said "Yeah, you should go ahead and sue".)

Courts tend to be protective of the rights of lawyers. This may be because they have seen what a mess unqualified advisors can make, or because, the judges being lawyers themselves, they do not want the profession out of work. Probably it is a bit of both.

  • Haha, not a bad invoice!
    – A.fm.
    Commented Apr 16, 2018 at 17:37
  • "He's cheaper than a real lawyer" might not be a good reason for a judge who gets paid an enormous sum, but for the average Joe who doesn't, it seems a very good reason! Commented Apr 16, 2018 at 22:59
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    @highly: The average Joe doesn't appreciate what a mess unqualified advisors can make; judges do. If you're not convinced, I'll fix your car for you. Okay, I've no experience, but I read a book about it; and I'll only charge half what a mechanic does!. Commented Apr 17, 2018 at 8:49

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