It is understandable that genuine concern for the welfare of a friend may prompt you or someone you know to provide legal advice that you believe to be accurate. However, in the state of Texas, you should never do so unless you are a licensed attorney.
Legal matters, especially those that pertain to personal injury, wrongful death, and liability, require the specialized knowledge of a qualified attorney. Even if it is a well-intentioned act, providing legal advice that one is not qualified to provide does not help in solving legal problems, rather it may only contribute to legal complications for the recipient and possibly for the individual providing the advice.
What is Considered Legal Advice?
Legal advice is any communication that is given in written or oral form with the intent to provide counsel about a legal situation that would affect the obligations or rights of the recipient of the advice. It is advice concerning the legal consequences of a matter and informs the recipients of their legal rights and what is needed to protect their rights. Legal advice can also be characterized as:
- Having a direct effect on an individual’s legal responsibilities or rights
- Creating rights and responsibilities in the person giving the advice
- Requiring specific knowledge, training, skill, and judgment in legal matters
The guidance that is offered from family members or friends, that is obtained from free online legal websites or is posted on social media websites generally do not qualify as legal advice.
Consequences of Using Legal Advice from a Non-lawyer
Someone who receives and applies legal advice that may not be accurate may only end up exacerbating his or her legal situation. In personal injury cases in which the stakes can be high, it can be a factor in whether victims of accidents can obtain compensation to which they may be entitled. A licensed attorney who is subsequently consulted would be tasked with attempting to remedy the situation.
Consequences of Giving Legal Advice
In Texas, the mere act of providing legal advice is considered practicing law. It is illegal if the person is not a licensed attorney and can result in legal consequences for the person providing the counsel. The acceptance of payment or some other form of compensation in exchange for providing legal advice is not necessary to be convicted of practicing law without being authorized.
According to Texas statutes, practicing law without a license is a Class A misdemeanor that is punishable with a fine of up to $4,000, a year in jail or both. If an individual is subsequently convicted of the same offense, he or she can be convicted of a felony of the third degree, which carries harsher penalties.
No one should provide legal advice if they are not licensed or otherwise qualified to do so. Instead, those needing legal advice should seek out an attorney who has the qualifications to provide them the legal representation they need.