Lawyers As Engineers?
Q: I got into a debate via a list-serve about whether lawyers in a typical State of the USA are, or are not, allowed to do things that would ordinarily be considered the practice of Electrical Engineering and require Professional Engineering licencing. Basically, a law professor who must remain anonymous asserted that since legal practice is an arm of government, "and many other reasons, what is authorized for legal practitioners is not subservient to the laws regarding the practice of engineering". Of course the laws that regulate Engineering come from the executive and/or Legislative branches of government. As a layman, this sounds a lot like "lawyers are above the law", and whatever next? Are they allowed to give medical opinions as part of the practice of law? (Rhetorical question). An example of the kind of professional EE that a lawyer might practice would be to opine (hypothetically) "The Ekco brand radio model 1234 includes an emitter follower circuit coupled to a cascode amplifier and as such. . .(IMHO this part is Engineering). Thus one may conclude that model 1234 infringes US patent 5,432,123. (and this part is law)". Well? Are lawyers above the laws that regulate Engineering?
A: The example you give doesn't seem to fit the framework of your question. As far as I know, a lawyer generally can't "do things" that require specific licenses. For example, let's say a building code required that a wiring plan must be approved by an Electrical Engineer. You couldn't have a lawyer approve it instead. But why would it require someone with an engineering license to say, "The Ekco brand radio model 1234 includes an emitter follower circuit coupled to a cascode amplifier and ... thus one may conclude that model 1234 infringes US patent 5,432,123" ?? Presumably the lawyer either knows engineering, or has sought advice from engineers, before making that statement. Similarly, a lawyer who is not an MD could say, "because the IV infiltrated and constricted the blood vessels so that the arm had to be amputated, malpractice was committed." But we also need to look at the context. Is this in a newsgroup discussion? There we don't need a license to say whatever we want. (Hopefully we'll identify our lack of expertise, though.) Is it in a demand letter to another company? "You're infringing my client's patent; stop or we'll sue." I don't see the lawyer would need to be an engineer in that context. But if you're talking about evidence that's presented in court, the lawyer would most likely want and need a qualified expert to testify to bolster the case. On the other hand, if patent 5,432,123 says, "the patented process is the use of an emitter follower circuit coupled to a cascode amplifier," and the lawyer can show through non-expert testimony that the alleged infringing device relies on an emitter follower circuit coupled to a cascode amplifier, that may be enough to win the case. I can't see that merely talking about a subject, or presenting the subject in debate inside or outside a courtroom, would require an engineering license. The above is not legal advice, for legal advice see an attorney.
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