Unauthorized Practice of Law-Union Program of Hiring Attorneys Is Unauthorized Practice of Law–Illinois State Bar Ass’n v. United Mine Workers of America
District 12 of the United Mine Workers (UMW) employed an attorney on a salary basis to prosecute members’ claims under the Workmen’s Compensation Act. Members were free to employ other counsel, but if they sought help from the union lawyer, the union agreed not to interfere with the attorney-client relationship. The attorney prepared his case from filed reports of the accidents, and, generally, his first contact with the union member was when they appeared before the Commission. Since the attorney was compensated by the union, the entire amount received in award or settlement went to the member. The Illinois Bar Association brought suit to restrain the UMW from continuing this program, alleging that the hiring of an attorney by a lay organization for the purpose of prosecuting individuals’ claims constituted the unauthorized practice of law. Over the UMW’s objections that the first and fourteenth amendments protected the plan, the Circuit Court of Sangamon County granted the relief sought. On appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court, held, affirmed. Unions who hire attorneys to prosecute members’ claims are engaged in the unauthorized practice of law and such activity is not protected by the first and fourteenth amendments.