There is a difference between being an “Advocate” and “practicing law”. Good Advocates do not cross the line.
Advocates are individuals who work on behalf of another person. People in need of advocates generally are those who would have difficulty trying to maneuver within a complex, structured system. Examples of systems or situations that would require advocacy would be the legal system, colleges or school systems and the healthcare system.
Good advocates are usually subject matter specialists and are able to offer their clients guidance as to how to go about seeking help, settle a dispute or what their rights are within the system in which they are experts.
Unfortunately, there are times when an untrained individual will claim to be an “Advocate” and insert themselves within a situation they do not belong. Due to their ignorance of the duties associated with being an actual advocate as well as with the law, they can end up causing a lot of confusion and trouble for all the parties involved.
The practice of law within the state of New Mexico requires licensure by the State Bar of New Mexico (See 36-2-27 NMSA 1978). Practicing law, according to the state of New Mexico, includes representing parties before a judicial or administrative body, preparations of pleading and other papers incident to actions, management of such action proceedings and non-related court activities such as giving legal advice and counsel, rendering a services that requires the use of legal knowledge or skill, or preparing instruments or contracts by which legal rights are secured (See State ex rel. Norvell v. Credit Bureau of Albuquerque Inc., 1973-NMSC-087).
Professional Advocates that are non-lawyers understand and respect these rules and case law. They expertly assist their clients and set reasonable expectations; the most important of these being when an actual attorney will need to be brought in to help with their situations.
If you or your business has been approached by an “Advocate” regarding an issue remember the following:
- A “good” advocate can be helpful. They may be able to help facilitate a resolution to an issue without filing lawsuits or going to court. This might save both parties time and money.
- A “good’ advocate will not “practice law” if they are not a licensed attorney.
- A “bad” advocate is anyone participating in behavior that only inflames the situation. For example, being accusatory, making demands, threats, or otherwise exhibiting harassing behavior.
- A “bad” advocate is anyone pretending to be a lawyer. (Drafting legal paperwork or giving legal advice. )
If you find yourself interacting with a “bad” advocate, stop. You are not legally required to work with them. Contact a licensed business attorney and let them know about the situation. An actual attorney will know how to handle the “bad advocate” and ensure you do not become the victim of needless intimidation or harassment.
Has your business been contacted by an “advocate” who is demanding information or action from your business? We can help. Contact us today.