Alice, Bob, and Chris have a conversation about doing XYZ, and the question of legality comes up --- none of them know whether or not XYZing is legal. Alice hires a lawyer and asks him; he says yes, it is legal to XYZ.

  1. How can Alice share this information (that the lawyer said, "yes, it is legal to XYZ") with Bob and Chris without practicing law herself?
  2. If the lawyer is wrong, and XYZing is actually illegal, is Alice responsible for Bob's and Chris's XYZing? Can they sue her?

In this case, Alice and the lawyer are in Oregon, but Bob and Chris are in other US states. It is a federal legal issue.

  • 1
    Federal law is not uniform across the US. I know this is weird, but it's true. Most notably, appeals courts sometimes reach different conclusions about federal law, and each court's conclusion prevails in the territory it covers until the supreme court rules on the question (if it ever does).
    – phoog
    Oct 17, 2022 at 8:30
  • Further to @GeorgeWhite's comment, are there factual distinctions that might distinguish Bob and Chris from Alice? Suppose the lawyer told Alice that it's ok to cook over an open fire in her backyard, but Bob's and Chris's backyards are in a tighter fire district with different restrictions on open fires.
    – phoog
    Oct 17, 2022 at 8:43
  • @phoog it's possible but unlikely.
    – Someone
    Oct 17, 2022 at 14:05

1 Answer 1


Can a client share legal advice from a lawyer?

Yes. In fact, by default a client is entitled to waive his attorney-client privilege. That means that the client may disclose the entire communications between the client and the lawyer rather than just the legal advice. It would be make no sense to outlaw the disclosure of lawyer's advice but not the full disclosure that the client's waiver enables.

How can Alice share this information with Bob and Chris without practicing law herself?

In any way short of misrepresenting, explicitly or otherwise, to Bob and Chris that Alice is licensed to practice law. In the absence of akin misrepresentations, Bob and Chris are not entitled to presume they have an attorney-client relation with Alice.

If the lawyer is wrong, and XYZing is actually illegal, is Alice responsible for Bob's and Chris's XYZing? Can they sue her?

It depends. First, it is unclear that the parties engaged in "XYZing" and whether it had any legal consequences, such as prosecution or losses.

Second, the nature of the relation between the parties determines whether Alice had a sort of fiduciary duty toward Bob and Chris.

Third, Bob and Chris need to satisfy the element of reasonable reliance even if Alice were their lawyer. Case in point: Someone's lawyer can advise to literally jump from a skyscraper to the concrete, but no reasonable person would rely on that advice.

  • All three of them XYZ, and if XYZing is illegal, there would be a fine of several thousand dollars.
    – Someone
    Oct 16, 2022 at 13:46
  • The practice of law is usually applying law to a particular person's factual situation. Saying what the law is doesn't constitute the practice of law. Saying that the law applies in a particular way to your individual facts is the practice of law.
    – ohwilleke
    Oct 18, 2022 at 1:13

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