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Ethics update

By Jonathan Bishop

Proposed New Rules of Court re: Multijurisdictional Practice of Law: The California Supreme Court’s multijurisdictional practice committee has proposed new rules of court that would permit four categories of lawyers who are not members of the State Bar of California to practice law in limited circumstances in California. Practice of law activities by eligible attorneys in compliance with these proposed new rules of court would not constitute the unauthorized practice of law. A summary of each proposed rule follows with the full text available at www.court info.ca.gov.

Proposed Rule 964 — Registered Public Interest Attorneys: This rule would permit non-California lawyers who are relocating to California to practice law at qualifying California public interest organizations, defined as non-profit entities whose primary purpose is to provide legal services without charge to indigent persons. Practice would be limited to three years and would be supervised by a California lawyer.

Proposed Rule 965 — Registered In-House Counsel: This rule would permit a non-California in-house counsel to practice law in California as an employee of a qualifying institution. The in-house counsel would be required to reside in California, would be restricted to providing legal services solely to their employer and may not appear in court.

Both Rule 964 and 965 contemplate a system of registration, which would subject the non-California lawyer to the disciplinary authority of the State Bar and the Supreme Court of California. Registered lawyers would be required to abide by all of the laws and rules governing California lawyers, and in the first year of practice would be required to complete the MCLE requirements that California lawyers must complete every three years.

Proposed Rule 966 — Lawyers Practicing Law Temporarily in California as Part of Litigation:
This rule would permit non-California lawyers who are involved in specific litigation to practice law in California on a temporary and limited basis if the lawyer: (1) is authorized to appear in a formal legal proceeding pending in a jurisdiction other than California; (2) expects to be authorized to appear in a formal legal proceeding that is anticipated but not yet pending in California; (3) expects to be authorized to appear in a formal legal proceeding that is anticipated but not yet pending in a jurisdiction other than California; or (4) is supervised by an attorney who is authorized to appear or expects to be authorized to appear in a formal legal proceeding that is anticipated or pending.

Proposed Rule 967 — Non-Litigating Lawyers Temporarily in California to Provide Legal Services: This rule would permit non-California lawyers to render legal services in California on a temporary basis in the following circumstances: (1) to a client concerning a transaction or other non-litigation matter, any substantial part of which takes place in another jurisdiction in which the lawyer is licensed to practice; (2) to an employer-client or to the employer-client’s subsidiaries or organizational affiliates; and (3) to California lawyers on an issue of federal law or the law of a jurisdiction other than California.

Both rules 966 and 967 would permit attorneys who are licensed to practice in another U.S. jurisdiction to practice law in California on a temporary and occasional basis without registering with the State Bar, or being admitted as counsel pro hac vice under rule 983. Eligibility would be open only to lawyers who do not have an office or residence in California.

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