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In House Counsel Shouldn't Have to Sit for NY Bar?

By Jason Beahm on November 16, 2010 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Who wants to have to take the NY bar? No one, is a pretty safe guess. Bar exams are expensive, time consuming and frustrating. But if you want to practice law in a state, there's just no way around that.

Or is there?

In-house counsels in New York don't want to take the exam, and New York State Bar Association is backing them up. They have asked the Court of Appeals to allow in-house counsels with a continuous presence to be allowed to practice law without taking the bar exam. However, in-house lawyers would still have to pay the $375 lawyer registration fee, naturally. They would also have to comply with continuing education rules and state disciplinary rules.

But before getting up in arms about the proposal, it's important to consider that this kind of rule is more the rule than the exception. In most states, in house counsel is required to register with the state, but the lawyer does not have to take the state bar. That's because in-house attorneys typically don't practice state law in the true sense of the word. They tend to act more as advisors who outsource the actual litigation to outside counsel.

As it stands, rules against the unauthorized practice of law are murky and the New York State Bar Association thinks that the new rules would help to clarify the issue. It is already understood that an out-of-state attorney can assist with an in-house matter on a short term basis without taking the NY bar. But the question is whether the situation is different when they have a continuous presence.

The House of Delegates will consider the proposed rules and will make a decision in January 2011.

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