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Multijurisdictional Practice—A Trap for the Unwary

By Effie Silva, Litigation News Associate Editor – October 7, 2008

Choosing a local attorney to handle a particular case may be a thing of the past for many corporate clients, but litigators need to be mindful of their ethical obligations in jurisdictions where they are not admitted to the bar.

“Sophisticated clients these days are tending to hire lawyers to handle their litigation needs without regard to where a lawsuit happens to be pending,” says Andrew S. Pollis, Cleveland, cochair of the ABA Section of Litigation Ethics and Professionalism Committee.

The requirements for pro hac vice admission are not uniform across the nation, as reflected in comparison charts [PDF] of the states’ pro hac vice rules [PDF] prepared by the ABA Center for Professional Responsibility and Commission on Multijurisdictional Practice.

In the six years since the ABA amended the Model Rules of Professional Conduct governing multijurisdictional practice by lawyers, 35 states have adopted rules that are identical or very similar to ABA Model Rule 5.5, which permits lawyers licensed in other jurisdictions to practice law on a temporary basis.

Those states are: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.

All other states are still studying the issue or have recommendations pending to adopt similar rules.

ABA Model Rule 5.5 requires an out-of-state attorney to file a verified application, pay a fee determined by the lawyer regulatory authority, and associate with local counsel. The Rule does not limit the number of times an out-of-state lawyer may file a pro hac vice application in a local jurisdiction.

Not all states that generally follow the Model Rule permit unlimited appearances, however. For example, Florida [PDF] places a limit on the number of appearances a lawyer can make in that jurisdiction to no “more than 3 appearances within a 365-day period in separate representations.”

The Florida Supreme Court, in its unanimous per curiam opinion approving the amended rules, held that its “goal in adopting the amendments is to implement changes that improve legal services for the public by permitting the limited, temporary multijurisdictional practice of law, but at the same time protecting the public, the legal profession, and the judiciary.”

Seven other jurisdictions (Alabama, District of Columbia, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada and Rhode Island) also limit the number of pro hac vice admissions.

Where clients routinely transact business across state lines, an understanding of the limitations placed by the various states’ pro hac vice rules is not only essential to competent representation by counsel, but vital to their clients’ interests.


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