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Info series: Who can’t give you legal advice

If you’re like most people, at some point in the past you’ve dealt with employees of the county in which you live. Maybe it’s when you got married and had to get a license. Maybe it’s when you bought a new house and had to get a deed recorded. As a lawyer, I deal with county employees more than the average person.

If you’re dealing with county employees in California, you’ve no doubt been told that the clerk(s) you’re dealing with can’t answer X question because that would be giving you legal advice. If you’re like many people I’ve encountered, you find that annoying.

In my last trip to a county recorder’s office (in my case, San Mateo County, California), I snapped this picture. The clerk(s) aren’t answering your question to annoy you, they’re actually barred by law from answering questions that would constitute legal advice.

Unlike many statutes, Business and Professions Code section 6125 is fairly short. The entirety of it is “No person shall practice law in California unless that person is an active member of the State Bar.”

The full text of the statute as well as the related statute sections following it are available here.

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Andy Chen

Andy I. Chen is a lawyer licensed to practice law in California and New York. Andy maintains offices in Los Altos, California and Modesto, California. Under the New York Court of Appeals' 2015 decision in Schoenefeld v. State of New York, Andy does not accept cases from those in New York state. He does, however, know many lawyers in New York state and would be happy to make a referral.