Midyear Meeting

Foreign lawyers could work in US as in-house counsel under model rule change

Foreign lawyers would have limited authority to serve as in-house counsel in the United States under a resolution approved on Monday by the ABA House of Delegates.

Resolution 107A is among a series of proposed amendments to the ABA model ethics rules that acknowledge the globalization of law practice. It amends Rule 5.5(d) of the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct concerning unauthorized practice and multijurisdictional practice.

The amendment states that foreign lawyers may work as in-house counsel in the United States, but they may not give advice on U.S. law unless it is based on the advice of a lawyer who is licensed in the appropriate jurisdiction. A related resolution, 107B, requires registration for foreign lawyers working as in-house counsel.

Adding foreign lawyers to Rule 5.5 helps ensure that these lawyers are “identifiable, subject to monitoring, and accountable for their conduct,” according to a report accompanying the resolution by the ABA Commission on Ethics 20/20. Seven states already expressly permit foreign lawyers to work as in-house lawyers in the U.S. offices of their clients.

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