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Unauthorized Practice Of Law

Chicago area immigration attorneys have reportedly seen an uptick in both demand for their services and immigration scams ( Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan issued a press release warning immigrant communities about potential fraud ( Her office recently sued southwest suburb-based Norma Bonilla, who is accused of immigration fraud ( Bonilla has allegedly defrauded at least four people who were seeking immigration law services. Bonilla is not an attorney.

How do people fall prey to these scams? In some cases, their misunderstanding based on the legal conventions of their native cultures may lead them to fall victim to the unauthorized practice of law.

In some countries, for example, notaries ("notarios") are authorized to provide some basic legal services, while in the U.S. they are merely authorized to witness signatures. As such, it is understandable that some immigrants may assume that a notary can assist them with legal services, including immigration services. According to an FAQ published by the ISBA Task Force on Unauthorized Practice of Law, in addition to licensed attorneys, not-for-profit entities registered with the Board of Immigration Appeals can provide immigration law services (

Find out more in the June Illinois Bar Journal.

The Lake County Board of Review (BOR) approved a change in its rules regarding taxpayer representation during the appeal process to allow homeowners to continue to represent themselves, or be represented by an Illinois licensed attorney. The rule change was supported by the Illinois State Bar Association.

Thomas Cooprider, CIAO, Board of Review Chairman said, "The Board has reviewed this issue for many months, deliberated it in public meetings on multiple occasions, and heard testimony from all parties. The BOR changed its rules clarifying that individual taxpayers may represent themselves, or retain a licensed attorney to represent them before the Board."

The Illinois Supreme Court on Wednesday granted the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission (ARDC) the authority to investigate and prosecute the unauthorized practice of law.

"We will handle any UPL matter in much the same way we handle a disciplinary matter," ARDC Administrator Jerome Larkin said. "For those who are never licensed anywhere and for disbarred lawyers, we would bring contempt proceedings in the circuit court. For lawyers from out-of-state and for suspended Illinois lawyers, we would bring proceedings before our hearing board."

The Illinois State Bar Association's (ISBA) Board of Governors and the ISBA Task Force on the Unauthorized Practice of Law were instrumental in this development. The ISBA Board in May of 2008 approved a proposal drafted by the ISBA UPL Task Force that sought to provide the ARDC with this authority. This was sent to the ARDC in 2009, which submitted it to the court in 2010.

"It was really a good joint effort by all of the organized bar and our office to give to the courts what we feel is a very practical approach to this problem," said James J. Grogan, ARDC Deputy Administrator and Chief Counsel.

The full text of today's rule amendments are available here: UPL_120711 Rule Amendments.pdf