Governor Cuomo Signs Braunstein's Legislation Making Unlicensed Practice of Law a Felony

Assemblyman Edward C. Braunstein (D-Bayside) announced that Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation, which he introduced, that strengthens the law by protecting New Yorkers who suffer serious harm caused by individuals who falsely represent themselves as lawyers (A.5700-A/S.1998-A-Fuschillo).

“Over the past several years, there have been hundreds of complaints by immigrants who have been victimized by fraudulent attorneys,” said Assemblyman Braunstein. “No one should ever be forced to leave the country because of the practices of dishonest con-artists claiming to be lawyers. By having this law signed, we are standing up for the rights of all New Yorkers to ensure that individuals receive proper legal assistance."

For most professions licensed by New York State, unlicensed practice constitutes a class E felony, but under current law, unlicensed practice of law constitutes a misdemeanor. The new law will make serious instances of unlicensed practice of law a felony. The new law takes effect November 1, 2013.

“We have no tolerance for scam artists who pose as lawyers and deceive New Yorkers in need of legal help," said Governor Cuomo. “This new law will help hold accountable individuals who defraud New Yorkers by offering services they are not licensed to provide. I thank the bill sponsors for their efforts on this important legislation.”

"When New Yorkers have legal problems, they deserve a real attorney. Unscrupulous individuals pretending to be lawyers often prey on immigrants and the poor," said New York State Bar Association President Seymour W. James, Jr. "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).

"Someone who hires an attorney is paying and entrusting that attorney to carry out some of their most important personal and financial wishes, such as buying or selling their home or creating a will,” Senator Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr. (R-Merrick) said. “Scam artists who pose as licensed attorneys and jeopardize these important matters should face tougher penalties. I applaud Governor Cuomo for approving this law which will help ensure that phony lawyers receive real punishment for defrauding consumers."