How to Hire an Out-of-State Lawyer

There are all sorts of reasons why someone might find it necessary to retain the services of a lawyer in some state besides the state where they’ve located, their primary business or they themselves call home. Often this occurs when there is a desire to buy or in some way dispose of real estate or when a person must address legal matters in a state other than the one in which they live.

As is normally the case, a lawyer should be admitted to practice in the state in which they are representing a client. This is true whether contracts are being negotiated or legal actions have been filed. Exceptions to the general rule can be found in most jurisdictions.

To illustrate the point, some states permit lawyers who are licensed in another state to advocate on behalf of a client “pro hac vice” or “for this case.”  To be regarded as pro hac vice, the attorney has to be licensed in some other state and petition the local court to accept him or her to represent the client in a specific matter. The local court might affirm the petition, disallow the petition, or grant the petition with certain qualifications. To give you an idea, the local court may require the out-of-state lawyer to practice with an attorney licensed in the state. The reason for this requirement is to better serve the client by providing local counsel who’s more conversant with local rules, state laws, and state processes.

Going beyond pro hac vice practice, lawyers can be cleared in some other state through reciprocity. By means of reciprocity, a lawyer can be allowed admission to the bar of a different state which does not restrict the lawyer to representing a client in only one case. This procedure is possible when the lawyer is licensed in a state that would accept the other state’s attorney licenses. Generally, the lawyer will have to have practiced for a prescribed number of years in one state before the second state will extend a license to practice law.

Ease of travel and communication has expanded the number of situations where contact with other states exists. This could certainly put someone in need of legal representation out of state. In such circumstances, it could be in one’s best interest to hire local counsel. Other cases might be better handled by requesting your regular legal representation to be permitted pro hac vice or admitted to the bar in fulfillment of reciprocity, if possible. If usual representation so consents, the further costs of travel ought to be deliberated as part of the fee arrangement. Often the client agrees to take care of these added costs, as long as usual representation has agreed to travel to the other state.