Phoenix, AZ asked in Civil Litigation, Consumer Law, Criminal Law and Intellectual Property for Texas

Q: Can I use the term "law" in my email address title without being a lawyer? Example: Jason.Smith.Law@yahoo.com.

I am a law student and have an email address with the term "law" in it. I am not a lawyer, however, and have never stated that I am. Is it legal for me to continue to use this email address without being a lawyer? Don't I have speech protections so long as I am not actively trying to impersonate an attorney?

4 Lawyer Answers
Omar Darwich
Omar Darwich
Answered
  • El Paso, TX
  • Licensed in Texas

A: best and easiest way to get a proper answer is to just contact your local state bar's ethics hotline

good luck

Michael Hamilton Rodgers
Michael Hamilton Rodgers
Answered
  • Criminal Law Lawyer
  • Dallas, TX
  • Licensed in Texas

A: Mr. Darwich's answer is correct. If your question is one of intellectual curiosity, you should discuss it with your peers in law school or with one of your ethics professors.

If the answer to this question is truly bothering you, why, as a law student, haven't you done the research to answer it yourself, come to your own conclusion and proceed with confidence that your answer is the correct one. By the way, if you continue to use this email address because, after diligent legal research, you believe it's ok to do so and you are later advised by "higher ups" that you are violating legal ethics, simply be prepared to defend your position. You certainly aren't going to get into any trouble over this IF you have a firm basis for your position.

Kiele Linroth Pace
Kiele Linroth Pace
Answered
  • Criminal Law Lawyer
  • Austin, TX
  • Licensed in Texas

A: I agree with the other attorneys and would add that there have been some famous people who have or had "Law" as their actual last name, for example: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Law_(surname)

But no, you generally do NOT have speech protections. The state bar is serious about its' role of protecting the public FROM unscrupulous attorneys and you need to stay well out of their crosshairs, especially BEFORE you are licensed. The speech of attorneys is heavily regulated by the bar and, if you anger them now, they may "find a reason" to deny you a license later.

From an ethics perspective, it may not matter if you are "actively trying to impersonate an attorney." If you have reason to understand that a layperson is confused about your status then the onus will be on you to clarify or disengage from the situation. If you are accused of getting too close to the line, your status as a law student and your use of that email address may be used against you.

I have a paralegal who knows some niche areas of law better than I do, and better than any attorney on my staff. However, he can not give legal advice because he is not a licensed attorney. When a client or potential client asks him a question that calls for legal advice, he must check with an attorney before responding. The conversation might look something like this:

Mr. Cient: My legal question is ABC.

Paralegal: I'll relay this question to your attorney and get an answer.

Paralegal: Mr. Client asked me about ABC and I believe the answer is XYZ.

Attorney: Yes, I agree the answer is XYZ, please tell him I said that.

Paralegal: Mr. Client, your attorney says the answer is XYZ.

This is obviously inefficient and delays the answer to Mr. Client. However, this is necessary to stay within the rules.

As a law student, you probably already know that laypeople will ask for your opinion on the law. If you share your opinion, you must avoid giving legal advice. To do otherwise is to risk trouble with the bar or with the criminal courts, especially offenses like these:

Sec. 38.12. BARRATRY AND SOLICITATION OF PROFESSIONAL EMPLOYMENT

Sec. 38.122. FALSELY HOLDING ONESELF OUT AS A LAWYER

Sec. 38.123. UNAUTHORIZED PRACTICE OF LAW

Michael D. Birchmore and Marcos Garciaacosta agree with this answer

A: If you are in law school, talk to them. They may not consider it appropiate.

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