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ABA Dispute Resolution Magazine

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Mediation, Unauthorized Practice of Law


To many mediators, "UPL" is an acronym with an increasingly ominous ring. This growing concern about the unauthorized practice of law (UPL) arises from reports around the country of charges filed against mediators who are not lawyers. These prosecutions - or in some cases warnings - are primarily directed at divorce mediators as a result of their drafting of detailed marital settlement agreements. However, all mediators have a reason to be concerned, because of uncertainties about what constitutes UPL in the context of mediation. This article surveys the legal terrain of UPL, and argues that it's time for new, clear and uniform standards for distinguishing between mediation and the practice of law.