- Act, Code & Rules
- Unauthorized Practice of Law
- Unauthorized Practice of Law
The Law Society of Alberta regulates the legal profession and the provision of legal services in Alberta (the Law Society). Lawyers and law firms require authorization to operate and practice law. As a general rule, giving legal advice, drafting legal documents, negotiating legal rights, and analyzing and interpreting the law are activities that are considered the practice of law.
Practising law without a licence or professional liability insurance is often referred to as the unauthorized practice of law (UPL) and is monitored by the Law Society. Unsupervised paralegals, legal assistants and other agents can deal with certain legal matters, but only lawyers can give legal advice or engage in the practice of law.
The Law Society responds to reports of unauthorized practice of law based on sections 106 to 111 of the Legal Profession Act (the Act). Section 106 of the Act provides that, with certain exceptions, only an active member of the Law Society can:
- Practice as a barrister or solicitor;
- Act as a barrister or solicitor in any court of civil or criminal jurisdiction;
- Commence, carry on or defend any action or proceeding before a court or judge on behalf of any other person; or
- Settle or negotiate in any way for the settlement of any claim for loss or damage founded in tort.
Section 107 of the Act prevents anyone from holding themselves out as a lawyer, unless they are an active member of the Law Society. This means that a person cannot state that they are a lawyer or able to provide legal services if they are not a lawyer. Additionally, a person cannot state that they are a student-at-law unless they are registered as a student-at-law with the Law Society.
For further details, including the exceptions to section 106, please consult the Act.
When the Law Society receives a complaint indicating that someone may be engaging in the unauthorized practice of law, the Law Society’s UPL team will take the following steps:
- Review the complaint and assess whether it indicates possible UPL activity
- If it does, we will open a file and send an acknowledgement letter to the complainant
- We may seek further information from the complainant or conduct an investigation
- The file will be provided to Law Society Counsel for review and further handling.
Please note we do not typically report back to complainants on UPL matters after acknowledging we received the complaint. Once a UPL concern is reported to the Law Society, we address it directly with the alleged UPL practitioner.
Reporting unauthorized practice
- You may use the Lawyer Directory to search a database of all lawyers who are licensed to practice law in Alberta, which will also confirm their practising status.
- Only lawyers with a status of “active, practising” are entitled to practice law. Lawyers whose status is listed as retired, inactive, suspended or disbarred are prohibited from practising law.
- If you suspect that an individual who is representing you as a lawyer is not qualified to do so, please contact the Law Society by filling out this complaint form.
- For any other UPL inquiries, please email the UPL team.
Frequently Asked Questions
In this section, legal agents, paralegals and legal assistants who are not working under the direct supervision of a lawyer will be referred to as “paralegals”.
There is no regulatory body for paralegals in Alberta. If there is a problem with the services provided by a paralegal, there is no recourse for review, complaint or discipline of the paralegal.
Paralegals are not accountable for their services, as there is no regulatory body to set or maintain standards of service. Paralegals are not required to follow a code of conduct. It is important to note that, unlike licensed lawyers, paralegals do not have professional liability insurance to cover the cost of any mistakes they may make.
No. Discussions and correspondence with a paralegal are not protected by confidentiality or privilege.
As a lawyer, what can I do to protect myself if I am conducting a financial transaction with an individual represented by a paralegal?
Payments made on behalf of a client to a third party who is being represented by a paralegal should be made payable directly to the third party. Payments should not be made to a paralegal or any other type of non-lawyer advocate.
A lawyer dealing with a paralegal should treat all transactions as if they were dealing with a self- represented individual. Lawyers dealing with paralegals should be extremely careful that they are in no way acting for the opposing party, and thus being placed in a potential conflict of interest.