Legal dramas on television helped an Illinois ex-con hone his acting skills and pass off as a hotshot lawyer, enabling him to represent paying clients for between $500 and $4500 till a court clerk recognized him and blew the whistle.

Tahir Malik, 47, who hasn't attended law school for even a single day, was held last month after a Skokie courthouse clerk grew suspicious of Malik's behavior at a hearing.

Malik was questioned and when he couldn't prove that he was licensed to practice law, he was taken into custody.

Subsequent investigations have revealed that Malik has represented people in dozens of cases involving traffic violations, mortgage foreclosure and petty crimes.

The investigations also revealed that Malik has a lengthy criminal history. He has served time in the Illinois Department of Corrections on a burglary conviction. He has also been arrested on charges ranging from theft and shoplifting to criminal trespassing.

From his own arrest history, he was familiar enough with the court system to make certain motions and file certain documents with the court, said Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart in a statement.

However, the ex-con's father Rahim Malik, 76, suggests that his son might have picked up some of his legal knowledge from watching television.

Malik has now been charged with two counts of false impersonation of a lawyer and is being held on bail. He is scheduled to appear in court on Jan 28.

Meanwhile, it is unclear how the cases of people who Malik represented will now be handled. However, the sheriff's office has set up a hotline - 773-869-6466 - to allow others cheated by him to call if they were willing to discuss his representation of them in cases.