The Unauthorized Practice of Law

By Jedidiah McKeehan

What would happen if someone just put on a suit and tie and walked into court, and started acting as a lawyer for someone even though they were not actually a lawyer?

If anyone figures out that this is happening, that person may be charged with a crime for engaging in the unauthorized practice of law. Engaging in the unauthorized practice of law is a Class A misdemeanor.

Tennessee Code Annotated section 23-3-103 states, “No person shall engage in the practice of law or do law business, or both, unless the person has been duly licensed and while the person’s license is in full force and effect.”

You are always allowed to represent yourself in court, but you can never speak in court on someone else’s behalf. Why would anyone even attempt to do this? It comes up in situations more often than you think. For example, an elderly individual may be involved in some legal dispute, and they have an adult child or friend who, “speaks for them.” Unfortunately, that is not allowed as that would be considered acting as their lawyer.

Also, if someone has an LLC set up and the LLC is trying to evict someone. The LLC cannot represent itself; it is not a person. This can be problematic if you have rental properties owned by a LLC. You did a smart thing by having an LLC own the properties, but when you need to evict someone, you will have to have a lawyer represent you as the LLC cannot represent itself.

We do not normally see non-lawyers trying to trick the court and practice law, but they may end up doing it without realizing it.


Jedidiah McKeehan is an attorney practicing in Knox County and surrounding counties.  He works in many areas, including family law, criminal, and personal injury. Visit for more information about this legal issue and other legal issues.