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Unauthorized Practice of Law Committee

OPINION 96-102



SUBJECT: Attendance at real estate settlements by paralegals, real estate secretaries and other "lay persons/non-attorneys" in place of designated legal counsel.



It is the OPINION of the Pennsylvania Bar Association Unauthorized Practice of Law Committee that the attendance at real estate settlements in the capacity of representing either the seller or the purchaser by anyone other than an attorney licensed to practice before the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania constitutes the unauthorized practice of law.



The representation of a seller or purchaser at a real estate settlement inevitably involves the legal interpretation of documents presented at settlement, the legal interpretation of the effect of matters which arise at the time of settlement, whether brought to the attention of the parties by the seller, the buyer, legal counsel for the other party, members of the title insurance profession, members of the real estate profession or representatives of the financial institution, and advice to the seller or purchaser as to the course of action they should take based upon the opinion of the person giving such advice.



Only an attorney admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania has the educational background and the knowledge to be able to properly identify all of the potential issues that arise from a real estate transaction, assimilate and analyze those issues and apply the statutory and case law of Pennsylvania to a satisfactory rendition of advice on that particular matter.

By permitting a non-attorney to attend a real estate settlement in place of a Designated Legal Counsel potentially places that legal counsel in direct violation of Pennsylvania Rules of Professional Conduct 5.3, 5.4 and 5.5 due to the unauthorized practice of law of the non-attorney being supervised by the attorney.