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In Texas, a statute prohibiting the unlicensed practice of law dates back to the Depression. Overseeing this statute is the Unauthorized Practice of Law (UPL) Committee, a state judicial panel formed to investigate and prosecute companies and individuals who practice law without a license. In 1998, the panel brought charges against Iowa-based Parsons Technology Inc., publisher of Quicken Family Lawyer. The committee claimed the software was designed in a manner that crossed the line of practicing without a license. They alleged that the software program, which features Harvard University law professor Arthur Miller guiding users through the steps to produce an individualized legal document, is giving advice and thereby functions as a lawyer. Committee members said the software should be banned to protect the public from shoddy legal advice.

The Author reports that the issue of advice versus information isn't limited to the legal field and that the battle is far from over for professions that could be affected by the Internet - law, investment, accounting, medicine. When income and job loss are affected, expect to see the regulatory fight heat up significantly.

Recommended Citation

Pat Newcombe, Lassoing Legal Software,GOV'T TECHNOLOGY, DEC. 1999, at 32.