The unauthorized practice of law (UPL) is a potential concern for those who wish to offer online legal services. Do UPL Restrictions Apply to Impeachment Lawyers from the The Connecticut Law Tribune on offers an interesting perspective on UPL. 

The article discusses the possible impeachment of the Connecticut Governor Rowland. Both the Governor and the legislative panel considering impeachment have retained lawyers not admitted in Connecticut. “According to six Connecticut ethics experts, the state statute on the unauthorized practice of law is simple and unforgiving: Without a Connecticut license, anyone practicing law in the state is engaged in the unauthorized practice of law.”

The Governor has retained Wilmer Cutler partner and former Solicitor General Seth Waxman. “Giving legal advice, said Waxman, is not the same as practicing law.” Excuse me? I am not an ethics expert and am no fan of UPL rules. But if this is true, then I don’t see why an online legal service could be considered practicing law (unless perhaps one wanted to use it in court, in lieu of a lawyer). Of course, the Connecticut case may also raise separation of power issues not applicable to typical UPL cases, but those following the UPL issue concerning online services will appreciate this article. If I’m reading it correctly (and I have not researched this issue), it appears to suggest that “law practice” can be read to mean only representation before a tribunal. Such a reading of UPL rules, it seems to me, would generally eliminate UPL concerns for online services.