Midyear Meeting

Model rule change guides judges considering pro hac vice admission for foreign lawyers

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At least 15 states allow foreign lawyers to make limited, special appearances before U.S. courts, but until now the ABA Model Rule on Pro Hac Vice Admission did not address the situation.

Now the ABA House of Delegates has expanded the model rule to include foreign lawyers. As amended by Resolution 107C, the model rule provides guidance to judges considering pro hac vice admission for foreign lawyers. Factors to be considered include the lawyer’s legal experience and training, his or her familiarity with the applicable law, and his or her familiarity with the client or the matter.

The foreign lawyer seeking pro hac vice status would have to work with an in-state lawyer who is responsible to the client, for the conduct of the proceeding and for independently advising the client on substantive U.S. law.

The provisions ensure that foreign lawyers are subjected to greater scrutiny than U.S. lawyers seeking pro hac vice admission, according to a report accompanying the resolution.

Neal Sonnett of Florida spoke on behalf of the resolution, emphasizing that the pro hac vice procedures would be more restrictive for foreign than domestic lawyers. Judges would have the discretion to refuse pro hac vice admission, and judges could impose restrictions on the foreign lawyers. “There is nothing new and there is nothing dangerous about this proposal,” Sonnett said.

Nor would the proposal take employment away from U.S. lawyers, as some have suggested, Sonnett said. Indeed, the rule change could increase work for U.S. lawyers working with the foreign lawyers, he said.

The amendment is one of four model rule changes proposed by the ABA Commission on Ethics 20/20 at the ABA Midyear Meeting to address the globalization of law practice.

Related coverage:

ABA Journal: “Closing Act: Ethics 20/20 Proposals Crack Open the Door for Foreign Lawyers”

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