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Kicking The Tires And Looking Under The Hood Of Professional Licenses

Certainly some large law firms have been duped by law school graduates claiming to be lawyers even though the graduates haven't passed the bar, and surely small firms, too.  Most troubling, however, is the effect on the general public.  New York is taking a step toward making unlicensed individuals claiming to be lawyers subject to the same criminal penalties as unlicensed individuals who claim to be doctors or other professionals, such as architects and accountants. 

You might have thought that would already be the case.  Impersonate a doctor in New York, and you're likely to be staring down a felony if this new bill passes.  Impersonate a lawyer, however, and apparently it's now just a misdemeanor. 

In California, an individual impersonating a lawyer can be charged with a misdemeanor, subjected to up to one year in a county jail and a $1,000 fine.  Not much compared to some of the damage that can be done.  In one case, a large law firm refunded almost $300,000 in fees incurred by a so-called lawyer who turned out not to be.  Even entire firms from out-of-state have gotten in trouble.  Maybe here it will become a felony too, instead of a slap on the wrist and a payment.

Want to check out your lawyer's license in California?  Click on this link and type in your lawyer's name.  Here are the links to check your accountant, architect, and your doctor and just about everyone else who could hold a license here.

Oh, and yes, I'm licensed, by the way.

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Posted by J. Craig Williams on Monday, February 06, 2006


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