Hiring an Out of State Attorney

There are some situations when a person might want to use an attorney who is not licensed in the state where the person’s legal issues are being addressed. Often this situation arises when we want to purchase or sell property or when we face legal issues in a state other than that of our primary residence.
 

License to Practice Law

As a general rule, an attorney needs to be admitted to practice in the state in which he or she is representing an individual. That is true whether the attorney is negotiating a contract, representing someone in court or representing someone in a real estate transaction.
 

Exceptions to the General Requirement for State Bar Admission

However, there are exceptions to that rule in many jurisdictions.  Some states will grant limited law licenses to attorneys who are licensed to practice law in another state. For example, some states will allow attorneys from other states to practice law as legal services attorneys. These attorneys typically work in public defender offices or for legal aid services. 
 
Some states also allow exceptions for in house counsel. If a corporation wishes to hire a licensed attorney from another state to represent their interests as in house counsel and that attorney will be working solely for that corporation then some states will grant an exception to the law license requirement.
 

For This One Case

It is possible for an attorney to represent a client in court without qualifying for an exception to the bar admission requirement for a particular state. Some states allow an attorney to represent a client “pro hac vice” or “for this one case.” 
 
In order to be admitted pro hac vice, the attorney must be licensed in another state and petition the court to represent a client in a particular matter. The court has discretion to grant the petition, to deny the petition or to grant the petition with qualifications. For example, the court may require that the attorney who is admitted pro hac vice work together with in state counsel. The assumption is that the local attorney is familiar with local rules and state law and that is a benefit to the client.
 

Full State Licensure Without the Bar Exam

Further, there are ways for attorneys who are licensed in one state to gain admission to another state’s bar without taking the bar exam.   Some states will grant reciprocity to a licensed attorney who has been practicing law in another state for a certain number of years. In many cases, this can result in faster admission to the bar of the second state.
Many people have an attorney whom they trust in their home state. However, with the modern ease of travel and communication, many people are also finding that they have legal needs out of state. In some situations, it makes sense to hire local counsel. In other situations, it might make sense to hire their usual counsel and request that the attorney be admitted pro hac vice or be admitted to the bar based on reciprocity. Of course, the attorney must be willing and able to travel to the other state and make arrangements with the client about who will responsible for the additional costs of the case.

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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