Chapter 84.

Attorneys-at-Law.

Article 1.

Qualifications of Attorney; Unauthorized Practice of Law.

84-1. Oaths taken in open court.

Attorneys before they shall be admitted to practice law shall, in open court before a justice or judge of the General Court of Justice, personally appear and take the oath prescribed for attorneys by G.S. 11-11, and also the oaths of allegiance to the State, and to support the Constitution of the United States, prescribed for all public officers by Article VI, Sec. 7 of the North Carolina Constitution and G.S. 11-7, and the same shall be entered on the records of the court; and, upon such qualification had, and oath taken may act as attorneys during their good behavior. (1777, c. 115, s. 8; R.C., c. 9, s. 3; Code, s. 19; Rev., s. 209; C.S., s. 197; 1969, c. 44, s. 58; 1973, c. 108, s. 35; 1995, c. 431, s. 1.)

 

84-2. Persons disqualified.

No justice, judge, magistrate, full-time district attorney, full-time assistant district attorney, public defender, assistant public defender, clerk, deputy or assistant clerk of the General Court of Justice, register of deeds, deputy or assistant register of deeds, sheriff or deputy sheriff shall engage in the private practice of law. Persons violating this provision shall be guilty of a Class 3 misdemeanor and only fined not less than two hundred dollars ($200.00). (C.C.P., s. 424; 1870-1, c. 90; 1871-2, c. 120; 1880, c. 43; 1883, c. 406; Code, ss. 27, 28, 110; Rev., ss. 210, 3641; 1919, c. 205; C.S., s. 198; 1933, c. 15; 1941, c. 177; 1943, c. 543; 1965, c. 418, s. 1; 1969, c. 44, s. 59; 1973, c. 47, s. 2; c. 108, s. 36; 1981, c. 788, s. 1; 1993, c. 539, s. 596; 1994, Ex. Sess., c. 24, s. 14(c); 1995, c. 431, s. 2; 2007-484, s. 28(a).)

 

84-2.1. "Practice law" defined.

(a) The phrase "practice law" as used in this Chapter is defined to be performing any legal service for any other person, firm or corporation, with or without compensation, specifically including the preparation or aiding in the preparation of deeds, mortgages, wills, trust instruments, inventories, accounts or reports of guardians, trustees, administrators or executors, or preparing or aiding in the preparation of any petitions or orders in any probate or court proceeding; abstracting or passing upon titles, the preparation and filing of petitions for use in any court, including administrative tribunals and other judicial or quasi-judicial bodies, or assisting by advice, counsel, or otherwise in any legal work; and to advise or give opinion upon the legal rights of any person, firm or corporation: Provided, that the above reference to particular acts which are specifically included within the definition of the phrase "practice law" shall not be construed to limit the foregoing general definition of the term, but shall be construed to include the foregoing particular acts, as well as all other acts within the general definition.

(b) The phrase "practice law" does not encompass:

(1) The drafting or writing of memoranda of understanding or other mediation summaries by mediators at community mediation centers authorized by G.S. 7A-38.5 or by mediators of employment-related matters for The University of North Carolina or a constituent institution, or for an agency, commission, or board of the State of North Carolina.

(2) The selection or completion of a preprinted form by a real estate broker licensed under Chapter 93A of the General Statutes, when the broker is acting as an agent in a real estate transaction and in accordance with rules adopted by the North Carolina Real Estate Commission, or the selection or completion of a preprinted residential lease agreement by any person or Web site provider. Nothing in this subdivision or in G.S. 84-2.2 shall be construed to permit any person or Web site provider who is not licensed to practice law in accordance with this Chapter to prepare for any third person any contract or deed conveying any interest in real property, or to abstract or pass upon title to any real property, which is located in this State.

(3) The completion of or assisting a consumer in the completion of various agreements, contracts, forms, and other documents related to the sale or lease of a motor vehicle as defined in G.S. 20-286(10), or of products or services ancillary or related to the sale or lease of a motor vehicle, by a motor vehicle dealer licensed under Article 12 of Chapter 20 of the General Statutes. (C.C.P., s. 424; 1870-1, c. 90; 1871-2, c. 120; 1880, c. 43; 1883, c. 406; Code, ss. 27, 28, 110; Rev., ss. 210, 3641; 1919, c. 205; C.S., s. 198; 1933, c. 15; 1941, c. 177; 1943, c. 543; 1945, c. 468; 1995, c. 431, s. 3; 1999-354, s. 2; 2004-154, s. 2; 2013-410, s. 32; 2016-60, s. 1.)

 

84-2.2. Exemption and additional requirements for Web site providers.

(a) The practice of law, including the giving of legal advice, as defined by G.S. 84-2.1 does not include the operation of a Web site by a provider that offers consumers access to interactive software that generates a legal document based on the consumer's answers to questions presented by the software, provided that all of the following are satisfied:

(1) The consumer is provided a means to see the blank template or the final, completed document before finalizing a purchase of that document.

(2) An attorney licensed to practice law in the State of North Carolina has reviewed each blank template offered to North Carolina consumers, including each and every potential part thereof that may appear in the completed document. The name and address of each reviewing attorney must be kept on file by the provider and provided to the consumer upon written request.

(3) The provider must communicate to the consumer that the forms or templates are not a substitute for the advice or services of an attorney.

(4) The provider discloses its legal name and physical location and address to the consumer.

(5) The provider does not disclaim any warranties or liability and does not limit the recovery of damages or other remedies by the consumer.

(6) The provider does not require the consumer to agree to jurisdiction or venue in any state other than North Carolina for the resolution of disputes between the provider and the consumer.

(7) The provider must have a consumer satisfaction process. All consumer concerns involving the unauthorized practice of law made to the provider shall be referred to the North Carolina State Bar. The consumer satisfaction process must be conspicuously displayed on the provider's Web site.

(b) A Web site provider subject to this section shall register with the North Carolina State Bar prior to commencing operation in the State and shall renew its registration with the State Bar annually. The State Bar may not refuse registration.

(c) Each Web site provider subject to this section shall pay an initial registration fee in an amount not to exceed one hundred dollars ($100.00) and an annual renewal fee in an amount not to exceed fifty dollars ($50.00). (2016-60, s. 2.)

 

84-3. Repealed by Session Laws 1973, c. 108, s. 37.

 

84-4. Persons other than members of State Bar prohibited from practicing law.

Except as otherwise permitted by law, it shall be unlawful for any person or association of persons, except active members of the Bar of the State of North Carolina admitted and licensed to practice as attorneys-at-law, to appear as attorney or counselor at law in any action or proceeding before any judicial body, including the North Carolina Industrial Commission, or the Utilities Commission; to maintain, conduct, or defend the same, except in his own behalf as a party thereto; or, by word, sign, letter, or advertisement, to hold out himself, or themselves, as competent or qualified to give legal advice or counsel, or to prepare legal documents, or as being engaged in advising or counseling in law or acting as attorney or counselor-at-law, or in furnishing the services of a lawyer or lawyers; and it shall be unlawful for any person or association of persons except active members of the Bar, for or without a fee or consideration, to give legal advice or counsel, perform for or furnish to another legal services, or to prepare directly or through another for another person, firm or corporation, any will or testamentary disposition, or instrument of trust, or to organize corporations or prepare for another person, firm or corporation, any other legal document. Provided, that nothing herein shall prohibit any person from drawing a will for another in an emergency wherein the imminence of death leaves insufficient time to have the same drawn and its execution supervised by a licensed attorney-at-law. The provisions of this section shall be in addition to and not in lieu of any other provisions of this Chapter. Provided, however, this section shall not apply to corporations authorized to practice law under the provisions of Chapter 55B of the General Statutes of North Carolina. (1931, c. 157, s. 1; 1937, c. 155, s. 1; 1955, c. 526, s. 1; 1969, c. 718, s. 19; 1981, c. 762, s. 3; 1995, c. 431, s. 4.)

 

84-4.1. Limited practice of out-of-state attorneys.

Any attorney domiciled in another state, and regularly admitted to practice in the courts of record of and in good standing in that state, having been retained as attorney for a party to any civil or criminal legal proceeding pending in the General Court of Justice of North Carolina, the North Carolina Utilities Commission, the North Carolina Industrial Commission, the Office of Administrative Hearings of North Carolina, or any administrative agency, may, on motion, be admitted to practice in that forum for the sole purpose of appearing for a client in the proceeding. The motion required under this section shall be signed by the attorney and shall contain or be accompanied by:

(1) The attorney's full name, post-office address, bar membership number, and status as a practicing attorney in another state.

(2) A statement, signed by the client, setting forth the client's address and declaring that the client has retained the attorney to represent the client in the proceeding.

(3) A statement that unless permitted to withdraw sooner by order of the court, the attorney will continue to represent the client in the proceeding until its final determination, and that with reference to all matters incident to the proceeding, the attorney agrees to be subject to the orders and amenable to the disciplinary action and the civil jurisdiction of the General Court of Justice and the North Carolina State Bar in all respects as if the attorney were a regularly admitted and licensed member of the Bar of North Carolina in good standing.

(4) A statement that the state in which the attorney is regularly admitted to practice grants like privileges to members of the Bar of North Carolina in good standing.

(5) A statement to the effect that the attorney has associated and is personally appearing in the proceeding, with an attorney who is a resident of this State, has agreed to be responsible for filing a registration statement with the North Carolina State Bar, and is duly and legally admitted to practice in the General Court of Justice of North Carolina, upon whom service may be had in all matters connected with the legal proceedings, or any disciplinary matter, with the same effect as if personally made on the foreign attorney within this State.

(6) A statement accurately disclosing a record of all that attorney's disciplinary history. Discipline shall include (i) public discipline by any court or lawyer regulatory organization, and (ii) revocation of any pro hac vice admission.

(7) A fee in the amount of two hundred twenty-five dollars ($225.00), of which two hundred dollars ($200.00) shall be remitted to the State Treasurer for support of the General Court of Justice and twenty-five dollars ($25.00) shall be transmitted to the North Carolina State Bar to regulate the practice of out-of-state attorneys as provided in this section.

Compliance with the foregoing requirements does not deprive the court of the discretionary power to allow or reject the application. (1967, c. 1199, s. 1; 1971, c. 550, s. 1; 1975, c. 582, ss. 1, 2; 1977, c. 430; 1985 (Reg. Sess., 1986), c. 1022, s. 8; 1991, c. 210, s. 2; 1995, c. 431, s. 5; 2003-116, s. 1; 2004-186, s. 4.2; 2005-396, s. 1; 2007-200, s. 4; 2007-323, s. 30.8(k).)

 

84-4.2. Summary revocation of permission granted out-of-state attorneys to practice.

Permission granted under G.S. 84-4.1 may be summarily revoked by the General Court of Justice or any agency, including the North Carolina Utilities Commission, on its own motion and in its discretion. (1967, c. 1199, s. 2; 1971, c. 550, s. 2; 1995, c. 431, s. 6.)

 

84-5. Prohibition as to practice of law by corporation.

(a) It shall be unlawful for any corporation to practice law or appear as an attorney for any person in any court in this State, or before any judicial body or the North Carolina Industrial Commission, Utilities Commission, or the Department of Commerce, Division of Employment Security, or hold itself out to the public or advertise as being entitled to practice law; and no corporation shall organize corporations, or draw agreements, or other legal documents, or draw wills, or practice law, or give legal advice, or hold itself out in any manner as being entitled to do any of the foregoing acts, by or through any person orally or by advertisement, letter or circular. The provisions of this section shall be in addition to and not in lieu of any other provisions of Chapter 84. Provided, that nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit a banking corporation authorized and licensed to act in a fiduciary capacity from performing any clerical, accounting, financial or business acts required of it in the performance of its duties as a fiduciary or from performing ministerial and clerical acts in the preparation and filing of such tax returns as are so required, or from discussing the business and financial aspects of fiduciary relationships. Provided, however, this section shall not apply to corporations authorized to practice law under the provisions of Chapter 55B of the General Statutes of North Carolina.

To further clarify the foregoing provisions of this section as they apply to corporations which are authorized and licensed to act in a fiduciary capacity:

(1) A corporation authorized and licensed to act in a fiduciary capacity shall not:

a. Draw wills or trust instruments; provided that this shall not be construed to prohibit an employee of such corporation from conferring and cooperating with an attorney who is not a salaried employee of the corporation, at the request of such attorney, in connection with the attorney's performance of services for a client who desires to appoint the corporation executor or trustee or otherwise to utilize the fiduciary services of the corporation.

b. Give legal advice or legal counsel, orally or written, to any customer or prospective customer or to any person who is considering renunciation of the right to qualify as executor or administrator or who proposes to resign as guardian or trustee, or to any other person, firm or corporation.

c. Advertise to perform any of the acts prohibited herein; solicit to perform any of the acts prohibited herein; or offer to perform any of the acts prohibited herein.

(2) Except as provided in subsection (b) of this section, when any of the following acts are to be performed in connection with the fiduciary activities of such a corporation, said acts shall be performed for the corporation by a duly licensed attorney, not a salaried employee of the corporation, retained to perform legal services required in connection with the particular estate, trust or other fiduciary matter:

a. Offering wills for probate.

b. Preparing and publishing notice of administration to creditors.

c. Handling formal court proceedings.

d. Drafting legal papers or giving legal advice to spouses concerning rights to an elective share under Article 1A of Chapter 30 of the General Statutes.

e. Resolving questions of domicile and residence of a decedent.

f. Handling proceedings involving year's allowances of widows and children.

g. Drafting deeds, notes, deeds of trust, leases, options and other contracts.

h. Drafting instruments releasing deeds of trust.

i. Drafting assignments of rent.

j. Drafting any formal legal document to be used in the discharge of the corporate fiduciary's duty.

k. In matters involving estate and inheritance taxes, gift taxes, and federal and State income taxes:

1. Preparing and filing protests or claims for refund, except requests for a refund based on mathematical or clerical errors in tax returns filed by it as a fiduciary.

2. Conferring with tax authorities regarding protests or claims for refund, except those based on mathematical or clerical errors in tax returns filed by it as a fiduciary.

3. Handling petitions to the tax court.

l. Performing legal services in insolvency proceedings or before a referee in bankruptcy or in court.

m. In connection with the administration of an estate or trust:

1. Making application for letters testamentary or letters of administration.

2. Abstracting or passing upon title to property.

3. Handling litigation relating to claims by or against the estate or trust.

4. Handling foreclosure proceedings of deeds of trust or other security instruments which are in default.

(3) When any of the following acts are to be performed in connection with the fiduciary activities of such a corporation, the corporation shall comply with the following:

a. The initial opening and inventorying of safe deposit boxes in connection with the administration of an estate for which the corporation is executor or administrator shall be handled by, or with the advice of, an attorney, not a salaried employee of the corporation, retained by the corporation to perform legal services required in connection with that particular estate.

b. The furnishing of a beneficiary with applicable portions of a testator's will relating to such beneficiary shall, if accompanied by any legal advice or opinion, be handled by, or with the advice of, an attorney, not a salaried employee of the corporation, retained by the corporation to perform legal services required in connection with that particular estate or matter.

c. In matters involving estate and inheritance taxes and federal and State income taxes, the corporation shall not execute waivers of statutes of limitations without the advice of an attorney, not a salaried employee of the corporation, retained by the corporation to perform legal services in connection with that particular estate or matter.

d. An attorney, not a salaried employee of the corporation, retained by the corporation to perform legal services required in connection with an estate or trust shall be furnished copies of inventories and accounts proposed for filing with any court and proposed federal estate and North Carolina inheritance tax returns and, on request, copies of proposed income and intangibles tax returns, and shall be afforded an opportunity to advise and counsel the corporate fiduciary concerning them prior to filing.

(b) Nothing in this section shall prohibit an attorney retained by a corporation, whether or not the attorney is also a salaried employee of the corporation, from representing the corporation or an affiliate, or from representing an officer, director, or employee of the corporation or an affiliate in any matter arising in connection with the course and scope of the employment of the officer, director, or employee. Notwithstanding the provisions of this subsection, the attorney providing such representation shall be governed by and subject to all of the Rules of Professional Conduct of the North Carolina State Bar to the same extent as all other attorneys licensed by this State. (1931, c. 157, s. 2; 1937, c. 155, s. 2; 1955, c. 526, s. 2; 1969, c. 718, s. 20; 1971, c. 747; 1997-203, s. 1; 2000-178, s. 8; 2011-401, s. 3.5.)

 

84-5.1. Rendering of legal services by certain nonprofit corporations.

(a) Subject to the rules and regulations of the North Carolina State Bar, as approved by the Supreme Court of North Carolina, a nonprofit corporation, tax exempt under 26 U.S.C. 501(c)(3), organized or authorized under Chapter 55A of the General Statutes of North Carolina and operating as a public interest law firm as defined by the applicable Internal Revenue Service guidelines or for the primary purpose of rendering indigent legal services, may render such services provided by attorneys duly licensed to practice law in North Carolina, for the purposes for which the nonprofit corporation was organized. The nonprofit corporation must have a governing structure that does not permit an individual or group of individuals other than an attorney duly licensed to practice law in North Carolina to control the manner or course of the legal services rendered and must continually satisfy the criteria established by the Internal Revenue Service for 26 U.S.C. 501(c)(3) status, whether or not any action has been taken to revoke that status.

(b) In no instance may legal services rendered by a nonprofit corporation under subsection (a) of this section be conditioned upon the purchase or payment for any product, good, or service other than the legal service rendered. (1977, c. 841, s. 1; 2009-231, s. 1.)

 

84-6. Exacting fee for conducting foreclosures prohibited to all except licensed attorneys.

It shall be unlawful to exact, charge, or receive any attorney's fee for the foreclosure of any mortgage under power of sale, unless the foreclosure is conducted by licensed attorney-at-law of North Carolina, and unless the full amount charged as attorney's fee is actually paid to and received and retained by such attorney, without being directly or indirectly shared with or rebated to anyone else, and it shall be unlawful for any such attorney to make any showing that he has received such a fee unless he has received the same, or to share with or rebate to any other person, firm, or corporation such fee or any part thereof received by him; but such attorney may divide such fee with another licensed attorney-at-law maintaining his own place of business and not an officer or employee of the foreclosing party, if such attorney has assisted in performing the services for which the fee is paid, or resides in a place other than that where the foreclosure proceedings are conducted, and has forwarded the case to the attorney conducting such foreclosure. (1931, c. 157, s. 3.)

 

84-7. District attorneys, upon application, to bring injunction or criminal proceedings.

The district attorney of any of the superior courts shall, upon the application of any member of the Bar, or of any bar association, of the State of North Carolina, bring such action in the name of the State as may be proper to enjoin any such person, corporation, or association of persons who it is alleged are violating the provisions of G.S. 84-4 to 84-8, and it shall be the duty of the district attorneys of this State to indict any person, corporation, or association of persons upon the receipt of information of the violation of the provisions of G.S. 84-4 to 84-8. (1931, c. 157, s. 4; 1973, c. 47, s. 2.)

 

84-7.1. Legal clinics of law schools and certain law students and lawyers excepted.

The provisions of G.S. 84-4 through G.S. 84-6 shall not apply to any of the following:

(1) Any law school conducting a legal clinic and receiving as its clientage only those persons unable financially to compensate for legal advice or services rendered and any law student permitted by the North Carolina State Bar to act as a legal intern in such a legal clinic.

(2) Any law student permitted by the North Carolina State Bar to act as a legal intern for a federal, State, or local government agency.

(3) Any lawyer licensed by another state and permitted by the North Carolina State Bar to represent indigent clients on a pro bono basis under the supervision of active members employed by nonprofit corporations qualified to render legal services pursuant to G.S. 84-5.1. This provision does not apply to a lawyer whose license has been suspended or revoked in any state. (2011-336, s. 5.)

 

84-8. Punishment for violations.

(a) Any person, corporation, or association of persons violating any of the provisions of G.S. 84-4 through G.S. 84-6 or G.S. 84-9 shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.

(b) No person shall be entitled to collect any fee for services performed in violation of G.S. 84-4 through G.S. 84-6, G.S. 84-9, or G.S. 84-10.1. (1931, c. 157, s. 5; c. 347; 1993, c. 539, s. 597; 1994, Ex. Sess., c. 24, s. 14(c); 2007-200, s. 3; 2011-336, s. 4.)

 

84-9. Unlawful for anyone except attorney to appear for creditor in insolvency and certain other proceedings.

It shall be unlawful for any corporation, or any firm or other association of persons other than a law firm, or for any individual other than an attorney duly licensed to practice law, to appear for another in any bankruptcy or insolvency proceeding, or in any action or proceeding for or growing out of the appointment of a receiver, or in any matter involving an assignment for the benefit of creditors, or to present or vote any claim of another, whether under an assignment or transfer of such claim or in any other manner, in any of the actions, proceedings or matters hereinabove set out. (1931, c. 208, s. 2.)

 

84-10: Repealed by Session Laws 2011-336, s. 6, effective December 1, 2011, and applicable to offenses committed on or after December 1, 2011.

 

84-10.1. Private cause of action for the unauthorized practice of law.

If any person knowingly violates any of the provisions of G.S. 84-4 through G.S. 84-6 or G.S. 84-9, fraudulently holds himself or herself out as a North Carolina certified paralegal by use of the designations set forth in G.S. 84-37(a), or knowingly aids and abets another person to commit the unauthorized practice of law, in addition to any other liability imposed pursuant to this Chapter or any other applicable law, any person who is damaged by the unlawful acts set out in this section shall be entitled to maintain a private cause of action to recover damages and reasonable attorneys' fees and other injunctive relief as ordered by court. No order or judgment under this section shall have any effect upon the ability of the North Carolina State Bar to take any action authorized by this Chapter. (2011-336, s. 7; 2016-60, s. 3.)