Ethics Counsel

Ethics Opinion No. 11

Adopted November 20, 1931

A County Attorney of this state has requested an opinion from the Board of Governors as to what constitutes the “practice of law” within the meaning of Sections 46 and 48 of The State Bar Act.

These Sections will be remembered to be:

Section 46. Only Active Members May Practice Law. No person shall practice law in the State subsequent to the first meeting of The State Bar unless he shall be an active member thereof as hereinbefore defined.

Section 48. Unlawful Practice a Misdemeanor. Any person other than a non_ resident attorney, who, not being an active member of The State Bar or who after he has been disbarred or while suspended from membership in The State Bar, as by this Act provided, shall practice law, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.

It is the opinion of the Board of Governors that the “practice of law” within the meaning of such sections, is any service involving legal knowledge whether of representation, counsel or advocacy, in or out of court, rendered in respect of the rights, duties, obligations, liabilities or business relations of the one requesting, or to whom the service is rendered.

The above definition of the term “practice of law” is substantially that adopted by the American Bar Association. We consider it to be correct.

In addition to the foregoing, we call attention to one of the leading cases on the subject, to-wit, In re Duncan, 83 S.C. 186, 65 S.E. 210, 24 L.R.A.,N.S., 750, wherein it is said:

“It is too obvious for discussion that the practice of law is not limited to the conduct of cases in courts. According to the generally understood definition of the practice of law in this country, it embraces the preparation of pleadings and other papers incident to actions and special proceedings, and the management of such actions and proceedings on behalf of clients before judges and courts, and, in addition, conveyancing, the preparation of legal instruments of all kinds, and, in general, all advice to clients, and all action taken for them in matters connected with the law.”

We approve the definition as given in the above case being included in the definition hereinbefore set forth.