D.C. Fed. Courts May Eliminate Reciprocity Rule

By Jenny Tsay, Esq. on March 13, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

D.C. federal courts plan to formally propose new reciprocity rules that will allow any lawyer in good standing and admitted to practice law in his or her home state to be admitted to practice in our nation's capital.

Currently, the rules only grant admission to lawyers who are admitted in a state that has a federal district which has a reciprocal admission relationship with D.C. attorneys, according to the ABA Journal.

If the new rules are adopted, it means that lawyers planning to practice in the D.C. federal courts won't need to take the bar exam.

Current Rules

Under the current rules, only active members who are in good standing with the D.C. Bar or attorneys in good standing with their state's bar and is a member in good standing of a U.S. District Court that provides reciprocal admission to members of the D.C. District Court Bar.

The reciprocity list only includes 15 states. Even in those states, some of their federal court districts aren't even included. Here are some of the district courts:

  • Northern and Western District of New York
  • Western District of Pennsylvania
  • Northern District of Ohio
  • Eastern and Southern Districts of Texas

So if your district isn't on the list, you'll have to take the D.C. bar exam to lawfully practice in D.C. federal courts.

Proposed Changes

The proposed changes to the current D.C. federal bar admissions rules are pretty minimal. The language of the rule will largely stay the same. The only thing that would be different is that the section stating that the attorney be "a member in good standing of a U.S. District Court that provides for reciprocal admission to members of the Bar of this Court" will be removed.

Let's be honest -- there are few things worse in your legal career than taking the bar exam. To have to take it in more than one state in order to practice law there is painful and expensive. So if the D.C. federal courts allow lawyers who are in active members in good standing in their home state be admitted to the court's bar, it'd open up more job opportunities (or competition if you're looking at it from a local D.C. resident's perspective) for lawyers across the country.

The proposed rules will be subject to 45-day notice and comment period, according to the ABA Journal.

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