If something sounds too good or cheap to be true, there is every chance it is, and the same applies to legal services, according to national boutique law firm Parke Lawyers.

This means it is vital that consumers confirm their legal representative is a qualified lawyer, says Parke Lawyers Managing Director Jim Parke.

While that may sound like common sense, he says recent court decisions in Victoria show that unqualified people still pretend to be lawyers and represent clients, even though it is illegal – and the penalties for doing so can include heavy fines or jail.

In February 2012, the Federal Court was satisfied that litigants in a proceeding before it “were under the influence of a persuasive charlatan”.  In 2014, the Herald-Sun reported that the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court had found that same man guilty of engaging in legal practice without being qualified to do so and fined him $10,000.

Mr Parke says that even reading the regulators’ publicly available information online shows that the problem of unqualified “lawyers” is more common than we might expect.  He says that the Victorian Legal Service Board (VLSB) issued a warning to consumers at the end of April this year, when another person was found guilty on three charges and fined $1,500 in the Moorabbin Magistrates’ Court, after advertising legal services online without being qualified to do so and representing a parent in a family law matter .  According to th