Though this is not very common, we've actually gotten questions about this problem twice this year alone: I thought I hired a lawyer to handle my case, but he/she wasn't actually a lawyer.
This situation can come up when the person you hired used to be a lawyer, but is not currently licensed. Or it can be that the lawyer is a paralegal or has some other training, but does not have a law license.
Regardless of the details--it amounts to the unauthorized practice of law, and the matter is taken very seriously by the state of Illinois. If you find yourself in this situation, you can report the non-lawyer to the State Attorney's office, and they may prosecute.
In a recent case, a woman with a revoked law license was passing herself off in traffic court as a properly licensed attorney. After some odd statements were made by her that alerted the prosecutor, she was discovered to be impersonating a lawyer. She has been charged with a felony for this, which could mean prison time if convicted.
There are many reasons that it is important to have a properly licensed lawyer representing you. First, of course, you wouldn't trust anyone with your case that misled you into believing they were something they are not. But also, only actual lawyers have the duty and right to keep confidential the things you tell them about your case. Additionally, only actual lawyers have to demonstrate their legal knowledge and good character in order to receive their license.
Reporting the non-lawyer stops him or her from affecting someone else's life in the future. But what about the harm that may have already come to your case? You likely will have to hire a properly qualified lawyer to fix any mess that was created.
You can very easily prevent this from happening to you at all. The Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission--the ARDC--has a website that allows you to check to see if your lawyer is currently licensed. A simple search can answer a big question.
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