Legal software unlawful?

A California book and software publisher is being investigated by the state of Texas for allegedly practicing law without a license.Nolo Press, based in Berkeley, Calif.

A California book and software publisher is being investigated by the state of Texas for allegedly practicing law without a license.

Nolo Press, based in Berkeley, Calif., is being investigated under a Texas statute that prohibits the practice of law by anyone not licensed by the state.

Nolo publishes legal self-help guides, as well as software, including a Living Trust Maker, specifically mentioned in a letter from the Texas Supreme Court's unauthorized practice of law committee.

In the letter, posted on Nolo's Web site, the committee states that "Your activities, the representations made, the form of the presentations and other aspects of these programs may constitute the unauthorized practice of law."

Nolo: Texas letter "ludicrous"
Texas' definition of the practice of law includes "preparing a will, contract, or other instrument, the legal effect of which under the facts and conclusions involved must be carefully determined."

In a press release, Nolo co-founder Ralph Warner said the investigation "is the first step toward widespread state censorship.

"In a nation founded on the idea that citizens have a right to directly participate in all three branches of government, it seems ludicrous for Texas to consider restricting access to the very tools that allow this to happen," he said in the statement.

Most states have laws governing professional conduct, and discussing who is entitled to practice law in the state. According to Nolo's Web site, every state except Arizona prohibits the unauthorized practice of law.

A hearing on the matter is scheduled for August.