The line between “legal advice” and “legal information” is often blurred. As a general matter, only a lawyer may give actual legal advice, whereas any non-lawyer may recite legal information. Furthermore, it is generally illegal for a non-lawyer or unlicensed attorney to offer legal advice or otherwise represent someone other than himself or herself in a court of law.
People who either willingly or unknowingly give legal advice without the skill, judgment, or authority to do so are essentially participating in the unauthorized practice of law and, therefore, subject to court penalties.
Unlike legal information, legal advice refers to the written or oral counsel about a legal matter that would affect the rights and responsibilities of the person receiving the advice. In addition, actual legal advice requires careful analysis of the law as it applies to a person’s specific situation – as opposed to speculation based on generic facts.
From a legal standpoint, the giving of legal advice is tantamount to the practice of law, and only a licensed attorney with whom one has formed an attorney-client relationship with may give actual legal advice. Because of the obligations that arise from the giving of such legal advice, the advice-giver is also bound to certain rights and responsibilities as a result of the information given.