2015 ORS 9.160¹
Bar membership required to practice law
  • exceptions

(1) Except as provided in this section, a person may not practice law in this state, or represent that the person is qualified to practice law in this state, unless the person is an active member of the Oregon State Bar.

(2) Subsection (1) of this section does not affect the right to prosecute or defend a cause in person as provided in ORS 9.320 (Necessity for employment of attorney).

(3) An individual licensed under ORS 696.022 (Licensing system for real estate brokers and property managers) acting in the scope of the individual’s license to arrange a real estate transaction, including the sale, purchase, exchange, option or lease coupled with an option to purchase, lease for a term of one year or longer or rental of real property, is not engaged in the practice of law in this state in violation of subsection (1) of this section.

(4) A title insurer authorized to do business in this state, a title insurance agent licensed under the laws of this state or an escrow agent licensed under the laws of this state is not engaged in the practice of law in this state in violation of subsection (1) of this section if, for the purposes of a transaction in which the insurer or agent provides title insurance or escrow services, the insurer or agent:

(a) Prepares any satisfaction, reconveyance, release, discharge, termination or cancellation of a lien, encumbrance or obligation;

(b) Acts pursuant to the instructions of the principals to the transaction as scrivener to fill in blanks in any document selected by the principals;

(c) Presents to the principals to the transaction for their selection any blank form prescribed by statute, rule, ordinance or other law; or

(d) Presents to the principals to the transaction for their selection a blank form prepared or approved by a lawyer licensed to practice law in this state for one or more of the following:

(A) A mortgage.

(B) A trust deed.

(C) A promissory note.

(D) An assignment of a mortgagee’s interest under a mortgage.

(E) An assignment of a beneficial interest under a trust deed.

(F) An assignment of a seller’s or buyer’s interest under a land sale contract.

(G) A power of attorney.

(H) A subordination agreement.

(I) A memorandum of an instrument that is to be recorded in place of the instrument that is the subject of the memorandum.

(5) In performing the services permitted in subsection (4) of this section, a title insurer, a title insurance agent or an escrow agent may not draft, select or give advice regarding any real estate document if those activities require the exercise of informed or trained discretion.

(6) The exemption provided by subsection (4) of this section does not apply to any acts relating to a document or form that are performed by an escrow agent under subsection (4)(b), (c) or (d) of this section unless the escrow agent provides to the principals to the transaction a notice in at least 12-point type as follows:

______________________________________________________________________________

YOU WILL BE REVIEWING, APPROVING AND SIGNING IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS AT CLOSING. LEGAL CONSEQUENCES FOLLOW FROM THE SELECTION AND USE OF THESE DOCUMENTS. THESE CONSEQUENCES AFFECT YOUR RIGHTS AND OBLIGATIONS. YOU MAY CONSULT AN ATTORNEY ABOUT THESE DOCUMENTS. YOU SHOULD CONSULT AN ATTORNEY IF YOU HAVE QUESTIONS OR CONCERNS ABOUT THE TRANSACTION OR ABOUT THE DOCUMENTS. IF YOU WISH TO REVIEW TRANSACTION DOCUMENTS THAT YOU HAVE NOT YET SEEN, PLEASE CONTACT THE ESCROW AGENT.

______________________________________________________________________________

(7) The exemption provided by subsection (4) of this section does not apply to any acts relating to a document or form that are performed by an escrow agent under subsection (4)(b), (c) or (d) of this section for a real estate sale and purchase transaction in which all or part of the purchase price consists of deferred payments by the buyer to the seller unless the escrow agent provides to the principals to the transaction:

(a) A copy of any proposed instrument of conveyance between the buyer and seller to be used in the transaction;

(b) A copy of any proposed deferred payment security instrument between the buyer and seller to be used in the transaction; and

(c) A copy of any proposed promissory note or other evidence of indebtedness between the buyer and seller to be used in the transaction.

(8) The notice and copies of documents that must be provided under subsections (6) and (7) of this section must be delivered in the manner most likely to ensure receipt by the principals to the transaction at least three days before completion of the transaction. If copies of documents have been provided under subsection (7) of this section and are subsequently amended, copies of the amended documents must be provided before completion of the transaction.

(9) Failure of any person to comply with the requirements of subsections (3) to (8) of this section does not affect the validity of any transaction and may not be used as a basis to challenge any transaction. [Amended by 2003 c.260 §1; 2007 c.319 §24; 2009 c.218 §4]

Notes of Decisions

A real estate broker is not engaged in the unauthorized practice of law where he acts as a "mere scrivener" in the prepara­tion of deeds and contracts. Oregon State Bar v. Fowler, 278 Or 169, 573 P2d 674 (1977)

Where defendant apparently understood what constituted "practice of law," statute was not so vague as to be unconstitu­tional as applied, within meaning of 14th Amend­ment to Federal Constitu­tion. Oregon State Bar v. Wright, 280 Or 693, 573 P2d 283 (1977)

In determining whether there has been unauthorized practice of law, whether compensa­tion has been charged for legal services is not controlling. Oregon State Bar v. Wright, 280 Or 693, 573 P2d 283 (1977)

Where defendant recommended particular legal forms to per­sons who were enrolled in his course in legal self-representa­tion, defendant gave legal advice and was engaged in unauthorized practice of law. State ex rel Oregon State Bar v. Wright, 280 Or 713, 573 P2d 294 (1977)

Collec­tion agencies are not engaged in unauthorized practice of law where, pursuant to ORS chapter 697, they solicit and collect claims of third parties upon contingent fee basis. Messmer v. Carter/Bonded Credit Company, 282 Or 323, 578 P2d 788 (1978)

Only individual human being can appear "in per­son." Oregon Peaceworks Green, PAC v. Sec. of State, 311 Or 267, 810 P2d 836 (1991)

Practice of law means exercise of professional judg­ment in applying legal principles to address an­oth­er per­son's individual needs through analysis, advice or other assistance. Oregon State Bar v. Smith, 149 Or App 171, 942 P2d 793 (1997), Sup Ct review denied

Because exercise of professional legal judg­ment can have noncommunicative aspects, prohibiting unauthorized practice of law does not violate constitu­tional right to free speech. Oregon State Bar v. Smith, 149 Or App 171, 942 P2d 793 (1997), Sup Ct review denied

Prohibi­tion against unlicensed practice of law does not apply to representa­tion before justice courts pursuant to ORS 52.060 (Persons entitled to act as attorneys in justice court). Oregon State Bar v. Arnold, 166 Or App 383, 998 P2d 757 (2000), Sup Ct review denied

Person who exercised professional judg­ment in applying legal principles to interpret terms used in forms was engaged in practice of law. Taub v. Weber, 366 F3d 966 (9th Cir. 2004)

Atty. Gen. Opinions

Right of a nonlawyer union business agent to represent a member before the Public Employes Rela­tions Board, (1972) Vol 35, p 1088

Law Review Cita­tions

55 OLR 408 (1976)


1 Legislative Counsel Committee, CHAPTER 9—Attorneys; Law Libraries, https://­www.­oregonlegislature.­gov/­bills_laws/­ors/­ors009.­html (2015) (last ac­cessed Jul. 16, 2016).
 
2 Legislative Counsel Committee, Annotations to the Oregon Revised Stat­utes, Cumulative Supplement - 2015, Chapter 9, https://­www.­oregonlegislature.­gov/­bills_laws/­ors/­ano009.­html (2015) (last ac­cessed Jul. 16, 2016).
 
3 OregonLaws.org assembles these lists by analyzing references between Sections. Each listed item refers back to the current Section in its own text. The result reveals relationships in the code that may not have otherwise been apparent.