Law students usually participate in legal aid clinics and workshops where they give legal advice to people.
Although the advice that law students give might be sound, truthful, and accurate, such advice is unreliable since only attorneys can give out legal advice.
In this article, I discuss the meaning of legal advice and the implications for law students giving legal advice to the public.
Why do law students give legal advice?
By virtue of studying law, members of society assume that law students possess in-depth knowledge of legal matters.
Therefore, it is common to find friends or relatives of law students seeking legal advice from them.
While it is possible for law students to give accurate legal advice, they may have limited knowledge and may give out inaccurate advice which might put the person relying on the advice in further complications or expose them to grievous harm.
This is because, unlike attorneys, law students lack the real-world experience that comes with practicing law.
Additionally, it is also illegal for law students to offer legal advice or any assistance in the form of representation or document drafting.
Can law students give out legal advice?
Giving legal advice when one is not licensed to practice law is an illegal practice known as unauthorized practice of law (UPL).
For law students, they risk their chances of getting admission to the respective state bar associations.
However, law students can give out legal advice only when they are in the presence of a supervising attorney.
This is because, in the case that they give out inaccurate information, the attorney will take over and give out the true legal position.
Nonetheless, the position of the American Bar Association (ABA) is that students cannot give legal advice, they can only give out legal information.
This brings up the question “What is legal advice?“
What is Legal Advice?
Legal advice is the act of suggesting certain actions or solutions to be taken based on one’s legal knowledge.
According to ABA legal advice differs from legal information.
- Education, knowledge, and experience in areas of the law
- An ability and experience to apply knowledge to specific fact patterns
- An understanding of how the application of the law affects the client’s legal rights
- Practical expertise in writing legal documents or other documents to support the client’s position
- State or federal licenses that allow legal representation in court
Therefore, this means that law students do not have the necessary experience and qualifications to give legal advice.
Hence law students can only recite laws and recall information that can serve as a guideline.
Morally and professionally, a person seeking legal advice from a student should also know that if the information is inaccurate, the student cannot take responsibility.
Additionally, when seeking legal advice from a student, one should always know that the information they give out might be inaccurate and in case the situation gets out of hand, you cannot sue or file professional complaints about the student.
Therefore, it is important to seek legal services from qualified attorneys, lawyers, or paralegals as they have enough professional expertise to give out correct information.
In addition, unlike law students, attorneys will be liable as the professional ethics of the legal career dictates that legal professionals should always give out accurate information.
If you are in need of legal advice, but find it expensive, worry not.
Some lawyers offer free initial consultation. Additionally, one can always look out for free legal aid workshops that are usually organized by qualified attorneys.
I hope this article has been of help.