NY Considers Change for Foreign Lawyers Turned In-House Counsel

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on October 23, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

If you started your legal career in a foreign country like China, France, or Texas, the New York courts are contemplating a rule change that could make your life a bit easier. The Empire State is considering an amendment to the Rules of the Court of Appeals that would permit foreign lawyers to register as in-house counsel.

Under the change, foreign attorneys would not have to be admitted to the New York bar to work in-house, so long as they are a member in good standing of a foreign legal jurisdiction. The switch would put them on equal footing with their American-barred colleagues.

New York's In-House Registration Scheme

New York already allows attorneys barred in other states to practice in-house without taking the New York bar exam or waiving in to the bar. Under the New York court's in-house registration rules, any attorney can register as in-house counsel so long as they are admitted to practice somewhere in the United States and they work for a company or other organization that does not practice law.

That registration allows in-house counsel to provide legal services without violating rules against the unauthorized practice of law. Of course, that practice is limited to typical in-house work. Registered in-house attorneys can provide legal services to their employers and its affiliates, but they cannot provide personal or individual legal services or appear in court.

Not the First, but the Biggest

The proposed rule change would expand the borders of that registration scheme. Lawyers admitted anywhere in the world would be allowed to practice in-house. The amendment, to part 522 of the Rules of the Court of Appeals, would allow the registration of in-house who "is a member in good standing of a recognized legal profession in a foreign jurisdiction, the members of which are admitted to practice as lawyers ... by a duly constituted professional body or a public authority."

If New York makes the change, it won't be alone, either. Fifteen other jurisdictions permit foreign in-house counsel, but New York will be by far the largest legal market to open its doors to international in-house attorneys.

The state court system is currently seeking comment on the proposed changes. If you want to throw your two cents in, though, you better be quick. The comment period ends November 9th.

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