Unauthorized Practice

Under the Legal Profession Act, the Law Society of BC is responsible for licensing lawyers and regulating the practice of law.

The Law Society also has responsibility to protect the public by taking action against those who illegally offer legal services or misrepresent themselves as lawyers (Legal Profession Act: section 1, section 15 and section 85). This work is overseen by the Unauthorized Practice Committee.

Search the unauthorized practitioners database

The Law Society provides a list of all unauthorized practitioners it has obtained judgments against since September 2003, with links to related court documents. Search the database

The risks of not using a lawyer for legal work

Members of the public can risk serious legal and financial consequences by entrusting legal matters to unregulated providers for the following reasons:

  • Lawyers have the education necessary to give legal advice and perform legal services
  • Lawyers are subject to ethical and practice standards and other regulatory requirements
  • Lawyers carry insurance and trust protection coverage

Examples of unauthorized practice

People engage in the unauthorized practice of law when they perform or offer to perform legal services for members of the public for a fee. Examples include:

  • preparing documents for court or other legal proceedings
  • preparing separation agreements or divorce papers
  • incorporating companies
  • drafting wills and probate documents
  • appearing or offering to appear as counsel before a court or an administrative tribunal
  • giving legal advice

The Legal Profession Act prohibits people who are not lawyers from falsely identifying themselves as lawyers.

Some common exceptions

  • People who are a party to an action who are representing themselves
  • The provincial Notaries Act allows notaries public in BC to provide certain services, primarily with respect to wills and real estate. Such notaries are regulated by the Society of Notaries Public of BC.
  • Paralegals who are both employed and supervised by a practising lawyer
  • The federal Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and regulations allow registered immigration consultants to provide limited legal services as specified under that legislation (such as representing persons before immigration tribunals). Immigration consultants are regulated by the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council.

filing an unauthorized practice complaint

To file a complaint, contact Unauthorized Practice.

The Law Society will review the information and investigate. If the facts show that someone is engaging in the authorized practice of law, the Society will take the steps necessary to resolve the matter.

Usually the person will refrain from the unauthorized practice of law after the Law Society provides an explanation of the restrictions that apply to the practice of law. However, if the unauthorized practice persists, the Law Society has statutory authority to seek a court injunction.

The Law Society publicizes the results of court actions to ensure the community understands this aspect of the Society's mandate, and also to gain the assistance of lawyers and members of the public in recognizing new or recurring unauthorized practice.