Can Attorneys Practice Law in Any State?
With travel between states simplified by the advent of cars, trains, and airplanes, many people find themselves embroiled in legal matters away from their home state. A common question that FindLaw gets from our readers is whether an attorney can practice in any state.
The simple answer is no: Attorneys must be admitted to the bar in each state they wish to practice in. However, legal answers are rarely so simple, and indeed, there are exceptions that would allow an attorney from one state to practice in another state.
So, how do you know if you need an in-state attorney or an out-of-state attorney for your out-of state case?
Each State Has Its Own Bar, Requirements
Attorneys generally can only practice law in the state where they took and passed the bar exam. But there are a few exceptions. For example:
- Practicing federal law. Attorneys can appear in a federal court outside of the state where they took the bar. However, the attorney must first apply for admission to appear before each district court. If admitted, the attorney is not required to take the state bar exam where the district court is located.
- The Uniform Bar Exam. Unlike individual state bar examinations, the uniform bar examination (UBE) is standardized. Currently, 13 states administer the UBE. Attorneys who pass the UBE in one state can apply for admission to the bar in another UBE state by transferring their score. If the attorney's UBE score is high enough for admission in the second state, the attorney can be admitted to practice law there.
- Reciprocity. Some states have agreements with other states that allow attorneys to practice in both states. For example, the District of Columbia allows lawyers who have practiced law for at least five years in any state to practice law in D.C. without taking the D.C. bar.
Do You Need to Hire an Out-of-State Lawyer?
With the complicated bar requirements of each state, whether you need an in-state or out-of state lawyer can depend on the type of case. Consider these examples:
- A personal injury case in another state. Most personal injury cases are filed in state court. Jurisdiction laws usually require a case to be filed in the state where the defendant lives or where the accident occurred. So if you're from California, the other party is from Florida, and the injury happened in Idaho, you would probably need to hire an Idaho lawyer if you file suit in Idaho or a Florida lawyer if you file suit in Florida.
- Immigration cases. Immigration law is federal law enforced by a federal agency. As such, an immigration attorney admitted to practice law in any state can represent a client before DHS, USCIS, the BIA, or any immigration court in any other state. You would not need to hire an out-of-state immigration attorney.
Deciding on which attorney to hire is hard enough; figuring out where to find the attorney can be even harder. FindLaw's Lawyer Directory can help you browse for lawyers by location to serve your particular needs.
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- Can You Expunge Out-of-State Convictions? (FindLaw's Blotter)
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