The practice of law involves engaging in the provision of legal services. In most nations, people can only practice law if they are admitted to the bar. People who are not lawyers can be penalized for practicing of law without authorization. This includes suspended and disbarred attorneys who attempt to practice, along with people like paralegals who overstep the boundaries in terms of the types of duties they can perform. The definition of "law" is itself a bit nebulous, and sometimes deciding whether or not a given case constitutes unauthorized practice of law can be challenging.
Going to court on behalf of someone else is one example of practice of law, and it's often the first one people think of when they hear the word "lawyer." Drafting legal documents such as wills, providing legal advice, representing someone legally, helping people prepare cases, and expressing legal opinions are also all also included under this term, however. While people are allowed to represent themselves, representing another person, even without pay, is usually not authorized.
Numerous ethical standards guide the practice of law. Attorneys are expected to adhere to ethical guidelines in order to retain their bar membership. In addition, individual employers of lawyers and other legal personnel may have limitations on their personnel for ethical or legal reasons. For example, someone who is involved in practice of law with the government, such as a clerk to a judge, may not be allowed to participate in political campaigns because this could be viewed as a violation of legal neutrality.
Part of the practice also includes certain rules about the lawyer-client relationship. This relationship is an example of a privileged relationship; communications between lawyer and client, for example, can be kept confidential. Lawyers must comply with numerous legal and ethical obligations when interacting as clients. If they do not, they can be disbarred and they will no longer be permitted to practice law.
In order to be admitted to the bar to practice law, a person must demonstrate legal competency by passing the bar exam. In addition, an applicant is required to pass a background check, which is used to investigate his or her character and history. This is designed to ensure that people of high integrity are practicing as lawyers, and to eliminate people who may experience conflicts of interest or who may not be able to adhere with the ethical standards of the legal profession.