In most states, lawyers practicing as solo practitioners, in law firms or public offices are governed by Rule 5.5 or its counterpart, governing multijurisdictional practice and prohibiting aiding in or engaging in the unauthorized practice of law.1 The recent adoption of an in-house counsel registration rule by the New York Court of Appeals serves as a reminder that all lawyers, including in-house corporate counsel, must comply with bar admission and registration requirements of the state or states in which they practice.2
Such corporate in-house registration rules allow out-of-state attorneys to serve as in-house counsel without being required to pass the bar exam and other practice requirements. Typically, such rules limit the in-house counsel’s practice to serving their employers on business-related issues, subject to the rules of professional conduct. While some states do not have a time limit for registration after beginning employment, the New York rule requires lawyers employed as in-house counsel after the effective date of the rule to register within 30 days.3
Pro Hac Vice Admission. Generally, lawyers handling litigation matters outside of the state of their licensure are subject to pro hac vice admissions for particular cases. In many states, the same is true for corporate in-house counsel who seek to handle court matters in their state of registration, outside their state of licensure. In many states, pro hac vice admission is generally reserved to the discretion of the particular court in which the admission is sought, yet many jurisdictions are requiring centralized registration in addition to meeting the requirements of the local court.
Temporary Multijurisdictional and Permissible Practice. Most states that have adopted Rule 5.5, based on the ABA Model Rules, allow for temporary practice in another jurisdiction in association with local counsel, for pro hac vice admission, for alternative dispute resolution proceedings and on transactional matters that are reasonably related to the lawyer’s practice in their state of licensure. Many states’ versions of Rule 5.5 also permits multijurisdictional practice of federal law, and address registration requirements of in-house corporate counsel.
Admission on Motion, without Examination. Most states have a process which permits admission on motion, without examination, for applicants who have practiced for the requisite number of years, are admitted to practice in a reciprocal jurisdiction and have graduated from an American Bar Association approved law school. Steps for applying for admission include obtaining required academic and background documentation, completion of an application, payment of a fee, and obtaining bar admissions approval. For lawyers seeking employment in other jurisdictions with the plan of immediately practicing, this lengthy process is not a substitute for corporate in-house registration or taking and passing the bar examination before beginning to practice law.