September 3, 2015 | Blog
  • Most people realize that in order to act as a real estate agent (or broker), you must have a license issued by the state authorizing that person to be a real estate agent (or broker).  However, it seems that with the proliferation of the internet and the availability of lots of legal information online, many non-lawyers – including some real estate brokers – think they can give legal advise as to what needs to be done to purchase or sell real estate.  This is considered the unlicensed practice of law because a non-attorney is giving legal advise. 

    The Illinois Supreme Court has specifically addressed this issue pertaining to real estate transactions in the case:  Chicago Bar Association v. Quinlan and Tyson, Inc. 34 Ill.2d 117, 1966.  What we learn from this case is that it prohibits a real estate broker from performing the tasks of a lawyer.  Here’s some of the language from the Chicago Bar Association v. Quinlan and Tyson by the Illinois Supreme Court prohibiting the unauthorized practice of law by real estate brokers.

    “Drafting and attending to the execution of instruments relating to real-estate titles are within the practice of law. . .” 

    “The drawing or filling in of blanks on deeds, mortgages and other legal instruments subsequently executed requires the peculiar skill of a lawyer and constitutes the practice of law. Such instruments are often muniments of title and become matters of permanent record. They are not ordinarily executed and delivered until after title has been examined and approved by the attorney for the purchaser. Their preparation is not incidental to the performance of brokerage services but falls outside the scope of the broker’s function.”

    “. . . The opinion of this court . . . prohibits explanation by the brokers of the provisions of the contract and bars them from preparing any other documents subsequent to the contract.”

    “. . . The legal problems involved often depend upon the context in which the instrument is placed, and only a lawyer’s training gives assurance that they will be identified or pointed out.  The mere completion of a form can readily be done by a stenographer. But it requires a lawyer’s advice to determine whether it will accomplish the desired result under all the circumstances.”

    “A transaction which at first seems simple may upon investigation be found to be quite involved. . .  Mere simplicity cannot be the basis for drawing boundaries to the practice of a profession. A pharmacist, for example might be competent to prescribe for many of the simpler ailments, but it takes a medical background to recognize when the ailment is simple. Protection of the public requires that only licensed physicians may prescribe or treat for any ailment, regardless of complexity or simplicity. And protection of the public requires a similar approach when the practice of law is involved.”  Id.


    The Chicago Realtors Association has even warned realtors that under Illinois Law real estate brokers can only (a) fill in the blanks on a contract with the pertinent factual or business information or (b) delete items in which the factual or business information is incorrect.  Brokers and agents may not add or modify provisions in a contract on behalf of other people because that that constitutes the unauthorized practice of law.