Changes in multijurisdictional practice rules in many states, including Ohio, have finally caught up with technological advancements affecting communication, research and investigation in the practice of law.1 Multijurisdictional practice rule changes present economic opportunities for lawyers and better continuity in relationships between lawyers and their clients. However, these changes also present serious risks for lawyers who are not careful to study the rules of conduct of Ohio and the states where they propose to cross borders to practice. Noncompliant lawyers are subject to criminal prosecution in some jurisdictions,2 professional discipline and even loss of fees.3
Despite the potential consequences of noncompliance, some lawyers who have long traveled across jurisdictional boundaries without incident may believe concerns about multijurisdictional restrictions are overblown. Many litigators have for years been able to get temporarily admitted in another state to handle a single case under pro hac vice rules. Others lawyers are greatly intimidated by the prospect of writing a letter on behalf of a client to a lawyer in a neighboring state. Moreover, litigators who arbitrate or mediate their out-of-state cases and business lawyers who handle transactions across state lines have often found themselves feeling uncertain and in limbo.
Ohio’s former DR 3-101 generally prohibited the unauthorized practice of law by both nonlawyers and lawyers who were not licensed here but did not say much more. Ohio’s version of Rule 5.5 retains the prohibitions against unauthorized practice, but goes further to authorize several specific categories of temporary practice here by out-of-state lawyers, which may or may not exist in other states where Ohio lawyers may travel or otherwise conduct business:
Local Counsel - Out-of-state lawyers are allowed to handle a matter here in association with an Ohio-licensed lawyer who actively participates in the matter;
Pro Hac Vice - Out-of-state lawyers are permitted to work on Ohio matters if they have been admitted pro hac vice or expect to be so admitted. This also covers work such as investigations before a case is filed;
Alternative Dispute Resolution - Out-of-state lawyers are authorized to handle arbitrations and mediations here related to their “home state” and for which there are no pro hac vice rules. For example, a District of Columbia lawyer could arbitrate or mediate a case in Cleveland, Ohio for a D.C. client;
Transactions Related to "Home State" Practice - Out-of-state lawyers are permitted to handle matters here that are related to their “home state” practice. A Boston lawyer could negotiate a business transaction in Portsmouth, Ohio for a Massachusetts client;
Corporate In-House Counsel - Out-of-state corporate counsel are allowed to provide services here to their corporate employers. This provision supplements Ohio's in-house counsel registration rule by allowing practice here by in-house lawyers.
Matters Involving Federal Law - Out-of-state lawyers who are authorized to practice here by federal law may do so. For example, an immigration lawyer from New York could handle an immigration matter here.4
Importantly, Ohio lawyers must not only comply with Ohio's multijurisdictional practice rule but also must adhere to the ethics rules, and corresponding practice rules and statutes of the states where their proposed multijurisdictional practice takes them. By effectively navigating these rules, lawyer can avoid significant risks while benefiting from the rewards of competent and ethical multijurisdictional practice.