The American Bar Association Commission on Ethics 20/20 is studying several issues relating to the ability of foreign lawyers to practice in the United States. This study is important to law firms of all sizes and certainly to multinational corporations which employ lawyers located and licensed in other countries. The ABA Commission has appointed a Working Group on Inbound Foreign Lawyers, which has considered these matters and has formulated ideas about why and how foreign lawyers could be included within the current ABA Model Rules. The Commission has taken no formal position regarding these issues but is accepting comments from its membership.

Inclusion of Foreign Lawyers within Scope of Pro Hac Vice Rules. Many individual and organizational clients want their foreign lawyers to be able to appear pro hac vice on commercial matters. Many of these foreign lawyers, who would be assisted by local U.S. counsel, have an intimate knowledge of their clients’ businesses. Some states already permit pro hac vice admission by foreign lawyers.

Allowing Registration of Foreign Lawyers as In-house Counsel. Many states have adopted rules permitting in-house corporate lawyers who are not licensed in that particular state to register as corporate counsel to perform legal services solely for their entity employer or its affiliates. Many multinational corporations which employ foreign lawyers would like the ABA to adopt this registration component to its Model Rule, also permitting such registration as corporate counsel by foreign lawyers.

Expanding the Temporary Multijurisdictional Practice Rules to Foreign Lawyers. ABA Rule 5.5, as well as many state’s versions of the Rule, permit temporary practice by lawyers not licensed in the particular jurisdiction on limited litigation, administrative, alternative dispute resolution and on transactional matters reasonably related to the lawyer’s home jurisdiction practice and clients. Delaware, Pennsylvania, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, New Hampshire and Virginia already have rules permitting some form of temporary practice by foreign lawyers. The ABA’s adoption of a Model Rule, permitting temporary practice by foreign lawyers, might spur other states to follow suit.