Corporations are sued for many reasons. Given the formalities associated with this legal structure, corporations usually have stricter legal requirements than other business entities in Florida. In this article, you will find out whether a Florida corporation must be represented by a licensed attorney.
Does a Corporation Have to be Represented by an Attorney in Florida? – The Verdict
US law permits individuals to represent themselves in court. This type of action is designated as “pro se,” as an individual representing him or herself in court is not practicing law. A business is not an individual but a separate legal entity from its owners.
Under Florida law, a corporation may not represent itself in court without a licensed attorney. If a company represents itself in court, the action is considered an unlicensed practice of law.
Except in a few cases, corporations may not be represented by non-lawyer employees, officers, or even shareholders. If a Florida business entity is sued in a lawsuit, state law requires the company’s owners, directors, or managers to hire a licensed attorney for legal representation.
What Happens If the Corporation Fails to Hire an Attorney for Legal Representation?
When a corporation decides not to hire a licensed attorney to respond to a lawsuit, the plaintiff may receive a default judgment against the company for failing to respond as required by law.
If a non-lawyer individual who is part of the company decides to respond to a complaint or summons on the company’s behalf without a licensed attorney, that person is guilty of unlicensed practice of law. Under Florida law, unlicensed practice of law is considered a third-degree felony.
Depending on the circumstances, the plaintiff may seize advantage of a default judgment to find a way to “pierce the corporate veil.” If the court orders the corporate veil to be pierced, the plaintiff may recover damages from the owner’s personal assets.
Does a Corporation Have to be Represented by an Attorney in Florida? – Attention to Detail
In Florida, the only exception in which a corporation is not required to hire an attorney for legal representation is in small claims court cases.
As provided by Florida Small Claims Rule 7.050, “a party, individual, or corporation who or which has no attorney handling such cause shall sign that party’s statement of claim or other paper and state that party’s address and telephone number, including area code.”
The same statute specifies that “if the trial court in its discretion determines that the plaintiff is engaged in the business of collecting claims and holds such claim being sued upon (…) the operation of such business, the court may require that corporation to provide counsel in the prosecution of the cause.”
If applicable, the rule states that “a corporation may be represented at any stage of the trial court proceedings by an officer of the corporation, or any employee authorized in writing by an officer of the corporation.”
Waste no Time with Uncertainty – Immediately Contact Attorney Romy B. Jurado
Legal representation for corporate businesses requires a strategic approach. If you want an experienced business attorney to represent your company, call Attorney Romy B. Jurado at (305) 921-0976 or email [email protected] to schedule a consultation.