Court rules against out-of-state lawyers

Out-of-state lawyers cannot collect legal fees for work they perform in California, the State Supreme Court ruled last month.

In a 6–1 decision written by Justice Ming Chin with Justice Joyce Kennard dissenting, the court said only active members of the California bar are eligible to practice law in the state.

The law applies to lawyers who advise clients long-distance using a telephone, fax machine or computer, the court said, although contact with the California client must be “sufficient…to render the nature of the legal service a clear representation.”

At the same time, an out-of-state attorney does not automatically practice law in California just by “virtually” entering the state “by telephone, fax, e-mail or satellite,” Chin wrote.

Ruling in the matter of Birbrower, Montalbano, Condon & Frank v. Superior Court, Chin wrote:

“Other states’ laws may differ substantially from California law. Competence in one jurisdiction does not necessarily guarantee competence in another.”