What is Unauthorized Practice of Law?

All practising lawyers in BC must be licensed by the Law Society of BC and covered under the compulsory indemnity policy. Those who are unlicensed and offer legal services for a fee or misrepresent themselves as lawyers may put the public at risk.

Lawyers are subject to ethical and practice standards and regulation by the Law Society, have specialized and rigorous legal education and training, and carry indemnity and trust protection coverage. Clients of lawyers benefit from statutory protections that void agreements disclaiming negligence or professional responsibility, restrict contingency fee agreements, and permit a Registrar of the Supreme Court to modify or cancel a legal services agreement or legal bill if it is unfair or unreasonable.

Some people who are not lawyers may be authorized to perform limited legal services, such as:

  • People who are representing themselves in their own legal matter
  • Participants in the Law Society’s innovation sandbox initiative. The innovation sandbox permits lawyers and other individuals and organizations to pilot their proposals for providing legal advice and assistance to address the public’s unmet legal needs. See the list of approved participants here.
  • Designated paralegals who are supervised by a practising lawyer
  • Notaries public can provide certain legal services, primarily with respect to wills and real estate. Notaries are regulated by the Society of Notaries Public of BC.
  • Registered immigration consultants can provide limited legal services under the federal Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, such as representing persons before immigration tribunals. Immigration consultants are regulated by the College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants.

The Law Society will only take action against persons who are providing unregulated legal services contrary to section 15 of the Legal Profession Act, if the Executive Director determines there is significant risk of harm to a person or the public.

There can be legal or financial risks if you entrust your legal matter to unlicensed and unregulated legal service providers. Examples of these legal services, if performed for or in the expectation of a fee, gain or reward, include:

  • appearing as counsel or advocate before a court or an administrative tribunal
  • preparing court documents, including divorce filings and separation agreements
  • incorporating companies and preparing corporate records
  • drafting wills and probate documents
  • giving legal advice
  • negotiating the settlement of a claim or demand for damages
  • commencing, prosecuting or defending proceedings in court on behalf of others, regardless of whether it is done for a fee.
  • offering to perform the above mentioned services or representing that a person is qualified or entitled to perform the services

If you believe someone is potentially putting the public at risk by offering unregulated legal services or misrepresenting themselves as a lawyer, contact the Law Society at uap@lsbc.org.