Minnesota Office of the Revisor of Statutes
[*Add Subtitle/link: Office]

Menu

Revisor of Statutes Menu

1998 Minnesota Statutes

This is a historical version of this statute section. Also view the most recent published version.

481.02 Unauthorized practice of law.

Subdivision 1. Prohibitions. It shall be unlawful for any person or association of persons, except members of the bar of Minnesota admitted and licensed to practice as attorneys at law, to appear as attorney or counselor at law in any action or proceeding in any court in this state to maintain, conduct, or defend the same, except personally as a party thereto in other than a representative capacity, or, by word, sign, letter, or advertisement, to hold out as competent or qualified to give legal advice or counsel, or to prepare legal documents, or as being engaged in advising or counseling in law or acting as attorney or counselor at law, or in furnishing to others the services of a lawyer or lawyers, or, for a fee or any consideration, to give legal advice or counsel, perform for or furnish to another legal services, or, for or without a fee or any consideration, to prepare, directly or through another, for another person, firm, or corporation, any will or testamentary disposition or instrument of trust serving purposes similar to those of a will, or, for a fee or any consideration, to prepare for another person, firm, or corporation, any other legal document, except as provided in subdivision 3.

Subd. 2. Corporations. No corporation, organized for pecuniary profit, except an attorney's professional corporation organized under chapter 319A or professional firm organized under chapter 319B, by or through its officers or employees or any one else, shall maintain, conduct, or defend, except in its own behalf when a party litigant, any action or proceeding in any court in this state, or shall, by or through its officers or employees or any one else, give or assume to give legal advice or counsel or perform for or furnish to another person or corporation legal services; or shall, by word, sign, letter, or advertisement, solicit the public or any person to permit it to prepare, or cause to be prepared, any will or testamentary disposition or instrument of trust serving purposes similar to those of a will, or hold itself out as desiring or willing to prepare any such document, or to give legal advice or legal services relating thereto or to give general legal advice or counsel, or to act as attorney at law or as supplying, or being in a position to supply, the services of a lawyer or lawyers; or shall to any extent engage in, or hold itself out as being engaged in, the business of supplying services of a lawyer or lawyers; or shall cause to be prepared any person's will or testamentary disposition or instrument of trust serving purposes similar to those of a will, or any other legal document, for another person, firm, or corporation, and receive, directly or indirectly, all or a part of the charges for such preparation or any benefits therefrom; or shall itself prepare, directly or through another, any such document for another person, firm, or corporation, except as provided in subdivision 3.

Subd. 3. Permitted actions. The provisions of this section shall not prohibit:

(1) any person from drawing, without charge, any document to which the person, an employer of the person, a firm of which the person is a member, or a corporation whose officer or employee the person is, is a party, except another's will or testamentary disposition or instrument of trust serving purposes similar to those of a will;

(2) a person from drawing a will for another in an emergency if the imminence of death leaves insufficient time to have it drawn and its execution supervised by a licensed attorney-at-law;

(3) any insurance company from causing to be defended, or from offering to cause to be defended through lawyers of its selection, the insureds in policies issued or to be issued by it, in accordance with the terms of the policies;

(4) a licensed attorney-at-law from acting for several common-carrier corporations or any of its subsidiaries pursuant to arrangement between the corporations;

(5) any bona fide labor organization from giving legal advice to its members in matters arising out of their employment;

(6) any person from conferring or cooperating with a licensed attorney-at-law of another in preparing any legal document, if the attorney is not, directly or indirectly, in the employ of the person or of any person, firm, or corporation represented by the person;

(7) any licensed attorney-at-law of Minnesota, who is an officer or employee of a corporation, from drawing, for or without compensation, any document to which the corporation is a party or in which it is interested personally or in a representative capacity, except wills or testamentary dispositions or instruments of trust serving purposes similar to those of a will, but any charge made for the legal work connected with preparing and drawing the document shall not exceed the amount paid to and received and retained by the attorney, and the attorney shall not, directly or indirectly, rebate the fee to or divide the fee with the corporation;

(8) any person or corporation from drawing, for or without a fee, farm or house leases, notes, mortgages, chattel mortgages, bills of sale, deeds, assignments, satisfactions, or any other conveyances except testamentary dispositions and instruments of trust;

(9) a licensed attorney-at-law of Minnesota from rendering to a corporation legal services to itself at the expense of one or more of its bona fide principal stockholders by whom the attorney is employed and by whom no compensation is, directly or indirectly, received for the services;

(10) any person or corporation engaged in the business of making collections from engaging or turning over to an attorney-at-law for the purpose of instituting and conducting suit or making proof of claim of a creditor in any case in which the attorney-at-law receives the entire compensation for the work;

(11) any regularly established farm journal or newspaper, devoted to general news, from publishing a department of legal questions and answers to them, made by a licensed attorney-at-law, if no answer is accompanied or at any time preceded or followed by any charge for it, any disclosure of any name of the maker of any answer, any recommendation of or reference to any one to furnish legal advice or services, or by any legal advice or service for the periodical or any one connected with it or suggested by it, directly or indirectly;

(12) any authorized management agent of an owner of rental property used for residential purposes, whether the management agent is a natural person, corporation, partnership, limited partnership, or any other business entity, from commencing, maintaining, conducting, or defending in its own behalf any action in any court in this state to recover or retain possession of the property, except that the provision of this clause does not authorize a person who is not a licensed attorney-at-law to conduct a jury trial or to appear before a district court or the court of appeals or supreme court pursuant to an appeal;

(13) any person from commencing, maintaining, conducting, or defending on behalf of the plaintiff or defendant any action in any court of this state pursuant to the provisions of section 566.175 or sections 566.18 to 566.35 or from commencing, maintaining, conducting, or defending on behalf of the plaintiff or defendant any action in any court of this state for the recovery of rental property used for residential purposes pursuant to the provisions of section 566.02 or 566.03, subdivision 1, except that the provision of this clause does not authorize a person who is not a licensed attorney-at-law to conduct a jury trial or to appear before a district court or the court of appeals or supreme court pursuant to an appeal, and provided that, except for a nonprofit corporation, a person who is not a licensed attorney-at-law shall not charge or collect a separate fee for services rendered pursuant to this clause;

(14) the delivery of legal services by a specialized legal assistant in accordance with a specialty license issued by the supreme court before July 1, 1995;

(15) the sole shareholder of a corporation from appearing on behalf of the corporation in court; or

(16) an officer, manager, partner, or employee or an agent of a condominium, cooperative, or townhouse association from appearing on behalf of a corporation, limited liability company, partnership, sole proprietorship, or association in conciliation court or in a district court action removed from conciliation court, in accordance with section 491A.02, subdivision 4.

Subd. 3a. Real estate closing services. Nothing in this section shall be construed to prevent a real estate broker, a real estate salesperson, or a real estate closing agent, as defined in section 82.17, from drawing or assisting in drawing papers incident to the sale, trade, lease, or loan of property, or from charging for drawing or assisting in drawing them, except as hereafter provided by the supreme court.

Subd. 4. Mortgage foreclosure fees. It shall be unlawful to exact, charge or receive any attorney's fee for the foreclosure of any mortgage, unless the foreclosure is conducted by a licensed attorney at law of Minnesota and unless the full amount charged as attorney's fee is actually paid to and received and retained by such attorney, without being, directly or indirectly, shared with or rebated to any one else; and it shall be unlawful for any such attorney to make any showing of receiving such a fee unless the attorney has received the same or to share with or rebate to any other person, firm, or corporation such fee, or any part thereof, received by the attorney; but such attorney may divide such fee with another licensed attorney at law maintaining the other's place of business and not an officer or employee of the foreclosing party, if such attorney has assisted in performing the services for which the fee is paid, or resides in a place other than that where the foreclosure proceedings are conducted and has forwarded the case to the attorney conducting such foreclosure.

Subd. 5. Corporate fiduciary agents. It shall be unlawful for any corporation, appearing as executor, administrator, guardian, trustee, or other representative, to do the legal work in any action, probate proceeding or other proceeding in any court in this state, except through a licensed attorney at law of Minnesota maintaining the attorney's own place of business and not an officer or employee of such executor, administrator, guardian, trustee, or representative. No attorney's fee shall be charged or paid or received in any such case, unless actually paid to and received and retained by such an attorney at law maintaining the attorney's own place of business and not an officer or employee of such executor, administrator, guardian, trustee, or representative; and it shall be unlawful for such attorney to represent in any manner receiving any sum as a fee or compensation unless the same has been actually received or, directly or indirectly, to divide with or rebate to any person, firm, or corporation any part of any such fee or consideration received by the attorney in any such case; but such attorney may divide such fee with another licensed attorney at law maintaining the other's own place of business and not an officer or employee of such executor, administrator, guardian, trustee, or other representative, if such attorney has assisted in performing the services for which the fees are paid, or resides in a place other than that where the action or proceedings are conducted and has forwarded the case to the attorney conducting the action or proceedings.

Subd. 6. Attorneys of other states. Any attorney or counselor at law residing in any other state or territory in which the attorney has been admitted to practice law, who attends any term of the supreme court, court of appeals, or district court of this state for the purpose of trying or participating in the trial or proceedings of any action or proceedings there pending, may, in the discretion of the court before which the attorney appears in the action or proceeding, be permitted to try, or participate in the trial or proceedings in, the action or proceeding, without being subject to the provisions of this section, other than those set forth in subdivision 2, providing the state in which the attorney is licensed to practice law likewise grants permission to members of the state bar of Minnesota to act as an attorney for a client in that state under the same terms.

Subd. 7. Lay assistance to attorneys. Nothing herein contained shall be construed to prevent a corporation from furnishing to any person lawfully engaged in the practice of law, such information or such clerical service in and about the attorney's professional work as, except for the provisions of this section, may be lawful, provided, that at all times the lawyer receiving such information or such services shall maintain full, professional and direct responsibility to the attorney's clients for the information and services so received.

Subd. 8. Penalty; injunction. (a) Any person or corporation, or officer or employee thereof, violating any of the foregoing provisions shall be guilty of a misdemeanor; and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished as by statute provided for the punishment of misdemeanors. It shall be the duty of the respective county attorneys in this state to prosecute violations of this section, and the district courts of this state shall have sole original jurisdiction of any such offense under this section.

(b) A county attorney or the attorney general may, in the name of the state of Minnesota, or in the name of the state board of law examiners, proceed by injunction suit against any violator of any of the provisions above set forth to enjoin the doing of any act or acts violating any of said provisions.

(c) In addition to the penalties and remedies provided in paragraphs (a) and (b), the public and private penalties and remedies in section 8.31 apply to violations of this section.

Subd. 9. Construing subdivision. Nothing in subdivision 3a shall be construed to allow a person other than a licensed attorney to perform or provide the services of an attorney or be construed to otherwise conflict with this section.

HIST: (5687-1) 1931 c 114 s 1; 1959 c 476 s 1; 1969 c 9 s 87; 1974 c 406 s 49; 1981 c 168 s 1; 1983 c 247 s 173,174; 1986 c 444; 1987 c 377 s 6; 1988 c 695 s 3-5; 1991 c 299 s 1; 1992 c 376 art 1 s 1; 1992 c 497 s 1; 1992 c 591 s 1; 1993 c 321 s 1; 1994 c 502 s 1; 1994 c 568 s 2; 1997 c 174 art 12 s 70

700 State Office Building, 100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55155 ♦ Phone: (651) 296-2868 ♦ TTY: 1-800-627-3529 ♦ Fax: (651) 296-0569