Marketing a Delivery of Trust Products by Nonlawyer Agents of a Non-Law Firm Corporate Entity.

A Virginia lawyer inquired whether it would constitute the unauthorized practice of law for nonlawyer agents of a corporate (non-law firm) entity to present seminars on the subject of living trusts and probate avoidance, with a local attorney present; invite attendees to meet with the nonlawyer agent who would obtain basic financial information and answer questions about the corporation; and provide the attendee with a free individual consultation with the attorney (who is retained by and is counsel for the corporation) in order to determine whether or not the attendee is a suitable candidate for a living trust or would benefit from other approaches. The inquiry indicated that attendees who elected proceed would pay a one-time fee to the corporation which would cover the cost of preparation of all necessary legal documents, to be typed by the corporation based upon forms drafted and approved by the attorney who would then execute the documents with the client. The fee would also cover assistance with the transfer of assets to the living trust.

The Committee opined that prior UPL Opinion No. 57, which was approved by the Supreme Court of Virginia on December 2, 1983 and became effective on March 1, 1984, was dispositive of the inquiry. UPL Opinion No. 57 found that the employment by a financial corporation of lawyers who would provide legal services to the corporation’s customers would constitute the unauthorized practice of law by the corporation.

Committee Opinion
August 29, 1991


Updated: Aug 28, 2006