Do I Need An Attorney? Legal Considerations For Business Owners In North Dakota

June 18, 2024


In today’s intricate legal landscape, businesses often find themselves entangled in lawsuits that initially seem straightforward but quickly reveal themselves to be far more complex and challenging than anticipated. From navigating convoluted regulatory frameworks to managing extensive discovery processes, the reality of litigation can overwhelm even the most prepared enterprises. This complexity not only strains financial resources but also diverts attention from core business operations. Understanding the multifaceted nature of modern legal disputes is crucial for companies aiming to mitigate risks and effectively manage the unexpected intricacies of the litigation process.


In North Dakota, businesses and organizations can be structured in various forms, each with distinct legal and operational characteristics. The primary types of entities in North Dakota include sole proprietorships, partnerships, limited liability companies, corporations, and non-profit organizations. Although each has its own advantages and disadvantages depending on the situation, one topic that is often overlooked is legal representation.

North Dakota district courts have established strict guidelines regarding the legal representation of business entities stating that “[an] unlicensed natural person may not act as an attorney for another natural person in his or her cause, an unlicensed natural person cannot attorn for an artificial person, such as a corporation.” This means that any individual who is not a licensed attorney cannot represent a business entity in legal proceedings.

In practical terms, this restriction requires business entities in North Dakota to engage licensed attorneys for legal representation in the district courts. This is essential for navigating the complexities of legal disputes, ensuring compliance with state laws, and protecting the business’s interests. Understanding and adhering to these legal requirements is vital for businesses to operate effectively and avoid potential legal pitfalls.

However, small claims cases follow different rules. In small claims court, an entity may be represented in a small claims court by an officer; a person holding an ownership interest; a director or other member of the governing board; a trustee; or an employee.


North Dakota has also outlined the penalties for practicing law without a license:

“Except as otherwise provided by state law or supreme court rule, a person may not practice law, act as an attorney or counselor at law in this state, or commence, conduct, or defend in any court of record of this state, any action or proceeding in which the person is not a party concerned, nor may a person be qualified to serve on a court of record unless that person has:

1. Secured from the supreme court a certificate of admission to the bar of this state; and

2. Secured an annual license therefor from the state board of law examiners.

Any person who violates this section is guilty of a class A misdemeanor.”

The implications of this statute are substantial. A Class A misdemeanor is a serious offense that can lead to severe penalties, including fines and potential jail time. Rather than jeopardizing your business operations or yourself by attempting to represent your company, trust our team of experienced attorneys to manage the matter for you.


In conclusion, the complex nature of litigation and the specific legal requirements in North Dakota highlight the importance of proper legal representation for business entities. Understanding these intricacies is vital for any business operating within the state. The potential for severe penalties, including the risk of committing a Class A misdemeanor, underscores the necessity for entities to secure qualified legal counsel. This not only ensures compliance with state laws but also provides the strategic advantage needed to navigate the multifaceted challenges of modern legal disputes effectively. By acknowledging the complexities of litigation and adhering to legal mandates, businesses can better protect their interests, minimize risks, and maintain focus on their core operations, ultimately leading to more sustainable and resilient enterprise management.

If you have any questions about setting up an entity or need a litigator for your entity, our team at SW&L Attorneys can help guide you through the process. To get in touch with our team, call 701-297-2890 or email us at:

This article is for informational purposes only and is subject to our disclaimer.