Midyear Meeting

ABA House to consider resolutions reflecting the globalization of law practice

Law practice has become increasingly global in nature—a reality reflected in four proposed revisions to the ABA’s model ethics rules.

The ABA’s policy-making House of Delegates will consider the model rule changes on Monday along with proposals on human trafficking, super PAC disclosures, indigent defense and unbundled legal services.

Three of the ethics proposals ease the way for foreign lawyers to practice in the United States as in-house counsel and in limited court appearances—with some significant limitations. The changes, proposed by the ABA Commission on Ethics 20/20, would amend the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct along with model rules on pro hac vice admission and registration of in-house lawyers.

One measure would allow qualified foreign lawyers to work as in-house counsel in the United States, provided they consult with a U.S.-licensed lawyer when advising on U.S. laws. Another rule change would provide guidance to judges considering pro hac vice requests by foreign lawyers who want to make limited, special appearances before U.S. courts. The rule would allow the foreign lawyer to appear only in an advisory role, with a U.S. lawyer handling primary responsibilities. A related resolution would require registration for foreign lawyers working as in-house counsel.

A fourth proposal would make it easier for lawyers handling matters involving multiple jurisdictions to resolve choice of law issues when conflicts of interest arise. The proposed commentary change says lawyers and clients may enter into advance agreements specifying the jurisdiction whose conflicts rules apply.

In other action, the ABA House will consider resolutions that would:

• Seek disclosure of secret campaign donations made through nonprofits and super PACs.

• Encourage lawyers to provide unbundled services, when appropriate, as a way to increase access to legal services. “Lawyers who unbundle their services in the marketplace charge their full rate, expand their client base because the cost per case is more affordable, and effectively compete with document preparation services,” according to a report accompanying the resolution. A lawyer who provides unbundled services agrees with a client to provide some but not all the work involved in traditional full-service representation.

• Address the problem of human trafficking, including a resolution endorsing laws that protect victims from prosecution for prostitution or other crimes related to their status.

• Address the “national scandal” of underfunded and overburdened public defenders, including a measure backing a federally funded Center for Indigent Defense Services.

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