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Friday, April 9, 2004

High Court Adopts Multijurisdictional Practice Rules

By a MetNews Staff Writer

The state Supreme Court has adopted rules allowing attorneys admitted in other states to practice in California under limited circumstances, the Administrative Office of the Courts announced yesterday.

The new rules, which take effect Nov. 15, were proposed by the Multijurisdictional Practice Implementation Committee appointed by the high court. They were adopted after more than three years of study, first by a task force that included four former State Bar presidents and then by the Supreme Court committee.

The rules establish four categories of permissible practice by out-of-state attorneys:

•“Registered Legal Services Attorneys”—Lawyers from other states who meet all requisites for admission in California other than the examination requirement may work for a “qualifying legal services provider,” such as a legal aid agency or a law school clinic, under supervision of a licensed California attorney. Attorneys in this category must apply for a determination of moral character by the State Bar, but may practice while awaiting word on those applications.

An attorney who has failed the California bar examination may not register under this provision for five years, and no lawyer may practice as a registered legal services attorney for more than three years.

•“Registered In-House Counsel”—Lawyers residing in California and employed full-time as in-house counsel by a corporation, partnership, or similar entity employing at least 10 persons in this state, if found to be of good character, may practice on behalf of those employers other than in litigation.

There is no limit as to how long an attorney may practice in this category, but registration must be completed annually, and the registrant must notify the State Bar within 30 days of leaving his or her employment and must re-register upon taking an in-house position with a new employer.

“Attorneys practicing law temporarily in California as part of litigation”—Lawyers from other states will be allowed to perform limited legal services in California in anticipation of litigation, or as part of litigation pending in a jurisdiction where they are admitted. The attorney must already have been retained in the matter or have been asked by a potential client to perform services in California in order to assist the client in deciding whether to retain the attorney.

Out-of-state attorneys may currently be admitted to appear pro hac vice, but this can only happen once suit is filed.

•“Non litigating attorneys temporarily in California to provide legal services”—This codifies the existing practice of allowing out-of-state lawyers temporarily present in California to advise existing clients or undertake similar tasks in connection with matters, other than litigation, in which a “material aspect” is taking place in another jurisdiction.

The rules are the culmination of a process which began with the passage of legislation sponsored by Sen. Bill Morrow, R-San Juan Capistrano.

Morrow had initially pushed for legislation that would have allowed any lawyer licensed in another state and in good standing for at least three years to practice in California . Morrow rewrote the measure to include a task force with the power to implement reciprocity rules, but in its final form—after heavy lobbying by Chief Justice Ronald M. George, among others—the bill called for a purely advisory task force.

The task force concluded that opening up full State Bar membership to out-of-state lawyers who haven’t taken the bar exam would require resolution of difficult questions such as whether to require reciprocity—particularly in light of the fact that many states will not admit California lawyers who have graduated from non-ABA accredited law schools.

The rules announced yesterday largely track the task force’s recommendations.