UPL Advisory Opinion No. 2012-1
State Bar Programs / Part XIV - Rules Governing the Investigation and Prosecution of the Unlicensed Practice of Law / Unlicensed Practice of Law Advisory Opinions / UPL Advisory Opinion No. 2012-1
Issued by the Standing Committee on the Unlicensed Practice of Law on August 13, 2012.
Note: This opinion is only an interpretation of the law, and does not constitute final action by the Supreme Court of Georgia. Unless the Court grants review under Bar Rule 14-9.1(g), this opinion shall be binding only on the Standing Committee on the Unlicensed Practice of Law, the State Bar of Georgia, and the petitioner, and not on the Supreme Court of Georgia, which shall treat the opinion as persuasive authority only.
A consulting forester represents a landowner in the sale of his timber. The consulting forester, in the past, had an attorney draft a timber contract for the sale of timber by a different landowner. The consulting forester wants to use the same timber contract for closing of the present timber sale, and not have an attorney involved in the sale and closing of the timber sale. He proposes to merely change name of landowner, name of timber company purchaser, sales price, timber being purchased and land description where the timber is located. All of this to be done so that the sale of timber can be accomplished without timber company employing an attorney to close the timber sale. Is the consulting forester engaging in the unauthorized practice of law?
To the extent any questioned activity involves the preparation or execution of a deed of conveyance, one should look to prior opinions of the Committee and the Supreme Court of Georgia. If, however, a consulting forester’s actions do not extend beyond the use of a pre-existing contract, that activity would not by itself constitute the unlicensed practice of law.
In UPL Advisory Opinion No. 2003-2, the Committee addressed issues surrounding the preparation and execution of deeds of conveyance. That opinion was approved by the Supreme Court of Georgia. In re UPL Advisory Opinion 2003-2, 277 Ga. 472 (2003). To the extent any questioned activity related to a timber sale involves the preparation or execution of a deed of conveyance, one should consult those two opinions for guidance.
In Georgia, the licensure of registered foresters is based upon statute. O.C.G.A. §12-6-40 et seq. Such licensees are regulated by the State Board of Registration for Foresters. O.C.G.A. §12-6-42. The Board issues licenses, has the authority to discipline licensees, and has the power to seek injunctive relief when it appears that an individual or other entity is falsely holding himself out as a registered forester. O.C.G.A. §§12-6-52, 12-6-57 and 12-6-60. It is illegal to engage in the unlicensed practice of professional forestry. O.C.G.A. §12-6-61. “‘Professional forestry’…means any professional service relating to forestry, such as investigation, evaluation, development of forest management plans or responsible supervision of forest management, forest protection, silviculture, forest utilization, forest economics, or other forestry activities in connection with any public or private lands….” O.C.G.A. §12-6-41(2).
Registered foresters are sometimes used in connection with timber sales. To the extent the forester’s activity is analogous to that of a licensed Georgia real estate broker, the Committee is unconcerned. It notes that real estate brokerage law allows a real estate transaction broker to assist any party by “[p]roviding pre-printed real estate form contracts, leases, and related exhibits and addenda” and by “[a]cting as a scribe in the preparation of real estate form contracts, leases, and related exhibits and addenda.” O.C.G.A. §§ 10-6A-14(a)(3) and 10-6A-14(a)(4). Real estate brokers engaged by sellers, landlords and buyers have the authority to carry out the same acts. O.C.G.A. §§10-6A-5(c), 10-6A-6(c) and 10-6A-7(c). Furthermore, it is lawful for real estate brokers “to complete listing or sales contracts or leases whose form has been prepared by legal counsel and such conduct shall not constitute the unauthorized practice of law.” O.C.G.A. §43-40-25.1. A broker completing a written offer to buy, sell or lease real property “shall include a description of the property involved, a method of payment, any special stipulations or addenda the offer requires, and, such dates as may be necessary to determine whether the parties have acted timely in meeting their responsibilities under the lease, offer, or contract.” Id. The Committee finds that if a registered forester engages in similar activity in relation to a timber sale, that activity does not by itself amount to the unlicensed practice of law.
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