New York State Bar Association President Seymour W. James Jr. today praised the state Legislature and Governor Andrew Cuomo for enacting legislation to protect individuals from dishonest persons who falsely represent themselves as lawyers.

"When New Yorkers have legal problems, they deserve a real attorney. Unscrupulous individuals pretending to be lawyers often prey on immigrants and the poor. The consequences of their bad advice can be life altering for their victims, resulting in jail time, loss of child custody, deportation and financial hardship," said James (The Legal Aid Society in New York City).

Under existing New York law, it is a misdemeanor to impersonate a lawyer, even if a victim is seriously harmed. In contrast, it is a felony to impersonate a doctor, dentist, veterinarian, social worker, accountant, landscape architect, court stenographer or many other licensed professionals. 

The new measure toughens the law to protect innocent New Yorkers against predators who fraudulently hold themselves out to be lawyers. It makes it a Class E felony for anyone who does this to cause another person to suffer monetary loss exceeding $1,000 or material damage resulting in the impairment of a legal right.

The legislation incorporated language developed by the State Bar Association and approved by its Executive Committee earlier this year.

The new law, signed by the Governor today, takes effect November 1, 2013.

"The Legislature and Governor rightly recognize the potential damage that people impersonating lawyers can cause their victims," James said.

The 77,000-member New York State Bar Association is the largest voluntary state bar association in the country. It was founded in 1876.

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Contact: Mark Mahoney
Associate Director, Media Services & Public Affairs
mmahoney@nysba.org
518-487-5532