I have heard that it is against the law. A message reads as follows describing this: Can we have an investigation of the attorney for practicing law without a license?

I asked my mother and she said that it is against the law to practice law in a professional way without being a certified lawyer. I checked the internet and it turned out to be true. Why?*

  • 4
    I’m voting to close this question because it's a simple Why-Question. Why questions of this kind are always "Because it was written into law by politicians." Such questions about legislative intent are most often Off-Topic (unless they are researching legal history). Law.SE is mostly about what the law is, not why it is - In most cases why is answerable with politics said so.
    – Trish
    Commented Dec 18, 2020 at 13:00
  • Not least, it would tend to result in injustice. Which makes a huge mess for courts to clean up later. Just one example: If someone were terribly represented, a defendant could claim not to have gotten a fair trial. That's a right! So courts need a mechanism to say "Nope, your representation WAS competent". Commented Jan 13, 2021 at 0:05
  • all the official answers will have to do with protecting the public and completely ignore the guild protection basis.
    – Tiger Guy
    Commented Sep 17, 2021 at 22:23
  • In the sense of "what makes it illegal?", this question is on-topic here.
    – Ryan M
    Commented Sep 20, 2021 at 18:04

2 Answers 2


Why is it against the law to practice law without a license?

Most, if not all, jurisdictions have decided to implement a law that requires such a licence (or similar) to ensure that practitioners are properly authorised, regulated and competent in the best interests of the administration of justice and to maintain a high standard of professionalism. Any shortcomings can then be addressed either by law or the relevant regulating body.


The justification is that the purpose of such laws is to protect people who need legal help from being victimized by con men, or by people who may be well-meaning but who do not know anything about the law and thus are not competent to help. I presume that few people facing serious charges that could result in a huge fine or imprisonment would want to be represented by someone who's legal knowledge consisted of having watched a few episodes of "Perry Mason".

The more cynical explanation is that lawyers got together and had these rules passed to cut down on competition. If you have to jump through a bunch of hoops to be allowed to be a lawyer, then there will be fewer lawyers, and thus less competition, and thus lawyers can get away with charging higher fees. Suppose you owned a business. Wouldn't you like to have laws in place that prevented competing businesses from opening and taking away your customers?

Believe what you like. I'm sure the reality is a mixture of both reasons.

  • This doesn't explain why there is no similar licensing requirement for gardeners, mop-operators, lumberyard workers, car salesmen, computer programmers and repair people... and elected officials. Why does caveat emptor not resolve the issues that you raise?
    – user6726
    Commented Dec 18, 2020 at 17:03
  • 3
    There certainly are similar licensing requirements for many professions: doctors, teachers, truck drivers, plumbers, hair dressers, etc etc. This article, brookings.edu/blog/up-front/2015/01/27/… describes a study that found that almost 30% of Americans are in jobs that require a license. Why some but not all? Maybe government officials believe that the dangers of incompetence or exploitation in some areas are not as dangerous as others. ...
    – Jay
    Commented Dec 18, 2020 at 18:32
  • 1
    ... Maybe the practictioners in some professions tend to be more laissez-faire and don't lobby for licensing to keep out competition, and resist it when others try to impose it. Maybe there are other reasons.
    – Jay
    Commented Dec 18, 2020 at 18:33
  • @user6726 Because lawyers don't just have duties to their clients (to whom you could argue caveat emptor could apply). They also have duties to the court (e.g. not to mislead the court). It is essential that the judiciary of all institutions is held to the highest possible standard since it is only here that citizens can enforce their rights. Consider that in some jurisdictions many aspects of law can be practiced without a licence and that one of the main differences between a paralegal and a lawyer is rights of audience.
    – JBentley
    Commented Sep 18, 2021 at 1:47
  • @JBentley Sure. And you could say the same about many other occupations. If an auto mechanic leaves your car in an unsafe condition, you could be injured. But so could the pedestrian or the person in the car you hit because you're brakes failed or whatever. If the programmer who writes the bank's software messes up, the bank may lose money, but so might the bank's customers, and government regulators may find they don't have the information they're supposed to have, etc. ...
    – Jay
    Commented Sep 23, 2021 at 14:52

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