Do You Have to Be a Lawyer to Represent Someone in Court?

The short answer is yes! In the majority of cases, especially in the USA, you must be at least a licensed practitioner to represent someone in the court. Your friend or acquaintance is in trouble with the law and needs legal support. In such a situation, you can only give some information, support, and/or offer some piece of advice on how to proceed. You can’t represent anybody but yourself in the court. If you do without any formal document, it will be blatantly illegal.

If you don’t want to commit an offense, never try to represent someone in the court because you’ll be thrown off the case and a charge will be brought against you. Sometimes you can even face fines and imprisonment.

Even if someone is out of the city and has to go to some hearings as an accused or else, you can’t be his/her legal representative in such cases as well. The best thing you can do is to advise him/her to hire an attorney to make the appearance at trial.


What will Happen if You Represent Someone in the Court without a License?

There are two ways out: the 1st outcome of your deed will be that the presiding judge will soon make clear that you are not qualified or licensed. Your honesty will prohibit you from representing that very person. He will order him/her to find an alternate attorney. What refers to the 2nd outcome of your representation, you will misrepresent yourself as a skillful, experienced attorney. That is, you will act illegally resulting in a new case being opened against you.


Who Can Represent the Accused in the Court?

To represent someone in the court you must first pass the bar exam in your state. Otherwise, there are no other circumstances under which you will be permitted to represent anybody in the court. Generally, those who have not been accepted to a state bar are completely banned from practicing law within that state’s jurisdiction. Such a ban refers to bar-certified attorneys from other states and areas as well. For example, if an attorney practicing law in Oregon there is no guarantee that he/she will be allowed to represent the client in Texas court or elsewhere. But this stands not for all states. There are ones that permit attorneys from ”outside” to represent the client in certain cases within their boundaries.

Besides the attorney, spouses can represent each other. This is possible in the cases when they are both sued, i.e. when they are defendants one of them can appear before the court and the other will not get defaulted.

But parents can’t represent their minors. Though parents may be a child’s representative on court papers, they can’t be considered as in-court representatives.

So, all these mean that you may have two choices: either get a legal representative or represent yourself personally.


Why Can’t You Represent Someone in the Court?

Based on the court provisions, if someone doesn’t have a law license, the ”client” could be vulnerable to the mistakes, unskillfulness, or ignorance of the representative. This is the main reason why the judge wouldn’t allow you to represent your friend or acquaintance.



Some federal and/or state agencies permit non-lawyers to represent someone at administrative hearings. For instance, non-licensed lawyers are allowed to appear for Social Security and Unemployment Benefit hearings. Other proceedings which accept non-lawyers are some private arbitration ones. What refers to federal bankruptcy law, it also undergoes this exception. Here you as a non-lawyer can prepare bankruptcy petitions but can not go to the court.

“In all courts of the United States, the parties may plead and conduct their own cases personally or by counsel.”

Keep in mind that even if you are asked to represent someone for simple and/or routine matters, you can not go to the court unless otherwise, you have a law license. Follow our advice based on the law, don’t get in trouble!


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1 Comment

  • In New York City, Parking Violations fall under Administrative Law and you do not need to be a lawyer to represent respondents of parking tickets in New York City. Such non-lawyer representative is called a Parking Violations Broker. FYI.


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