Bar Counsel

Limited Practices

Is there a 'federal law only' exception to the Oregon bar examination?

By George Riemer


With all the current talk going on about various aspects of the multijurisdictional practice of law, it seems appropriate to analyze whether out-of-state lawyers can come to Oregon and set up 'federal practices' without having to take and pass the Oregon bar examination. Several recent cases strongly suggest that such a practice is not permissible though there is some contrary authority available on this question. This article reviews a number of recent cases on this topic and offers the author's observations as well.

OREGON UNLAWFUL PRACTICE OF LAW PROHIBITION
ORS 9.160 provides, 'Except for the right reserved to litigants by ORS 9.320 to prosecute or defend a cause in person, no person shall practice law or represent that person as qualified to practice law unless that person is an active member of the Oregon State Bar.' The Oregon State Bar Board of Governors has the authority to investigate and seek injunctions against persons allegedly engaged in the unlawful practice of law in Oregon. See ORS 9.164 to 9.166. See also ORS 9.280 (Prohibition on acting as immigration consultant). The Board of Governors has adopted a detailed set of policies to guide the actions of the state bar's Unlawful Practice of Law Committee. BOG Policy 9.700(2) states that the

'Unlawful practice of law' shall mean the practice of law, as defined by the Oregon Supreme Court, by persons not members of the Oregon State Bar and not otherwise authorized by statute. It is unlawful for a person who is not an active member of the Oregon State Bar to engage in the practice of law within the State of Oregon, whether or not for compensation or in connection with any other activity, unless specifically authorized by law or rule. The practice of law includes, but is not limited to, any of the following: 1) holding oneself out, in any manner, as an attorney or lawyer authorized to practice law in the State of Oregon; 2) appearing, personally or otherwise, on behalf of another in any judicial or administrative proceeding; 3) providing advice or service to another on any matter involving application of legal principles to rights, duties, obligations or liabilities.

BOG Policy 9.700(2) is used by the bar in determining whether to investigate and pursue unlawful practice of law complaints in court.

'FEDERAL PRACTICE' HYPOTHETICAL
Consider the following: Lawyer X has been licensed to practice law in Washington, D.C., for many years and has had a federal tax law practice there for most of that time. He has gotten tired of the 'beltway' rat race and has decided to move to pristine Bend, Oregon, and open a practice limited to representing clients on federal tax matters such as federal income, corporate and estate tax filings. Can Lawyer X do this without taking and passing the Oregon bar examination?

ARGUMENTS AGAINST A 'FEDERAL PRACTICE' EXCEPTION TO THE OREGON BAR EXAMINATION
Several recent cases conclude that a lawyer cannot carry on an ongoing 'federal law' practice in a state in which he is not admitted to practice.

Consider In re Desilets, 247 B.R. 660 (Bankr. W.D. Mich. 2000), affirmed, Rittenhouse v. Delta Home Improvement, Inc., 255 B.R. 294 (W.D. Mich. 2000). Allan J. Rittenhouse was a lawyer admitted to practice law in Texas. He established an office for the practice of bankruptcy law in upper Michigan without obtaining admission to practice law in Michigan. He did obtain admission to practice before the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan, including the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in that district.

Rittenhouse represented Ernest Desilets in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceeding in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Michigan. A creditor of Desilets, Delta Home Improvement Inc., filed a motion in Desilets's bankruptcy case seeking an order of the bankruptcy court that Rittenhouse be suspended from practicing before the court until he was licensed to practice law in Michigan. Rittenhouse opposed the motion on a number of grounds, including that he was properly admitted to practice before the court based on his admission to practice law in Texas.

The chief judge of the bankruptcy court determined that Rittenhouse was required to be admitted to practice law in Michigan to engage in the general practice of law in Michigan from an office in Michigan even if Rittenhouse claimed he limited his practice to federal law only. The judge determined that Rittenhouse was a bankruptcy petition preparer under bankruptcy law and had violated various rules applicable to bankruptcy petition preparers in handling Desilets' bankruptcy and the bankruptcy of another individual as well. The judge imposed fines for those violations, ordered Rittenhouse to disgorge the fees he had been paid for handling those matters, and entered a declaratory judgment that 'the local rules of this court do not authorize Rittenhouse to engage in the general practice of law in Michigan.' The judge referred the issue of Rittenhouse's possible suspension from practice before the court to all the bankruptcy judges in the district, pursuant to the rules of the court.

Rittenhouse appealed this judgment to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan. That court affirmed the decision of the chief judge of the bankruptcy court. The district court judge agreed with the chief judge of the bankruptcy court that Rittenhouse had engaged in the unlawful practice of law by virtue of having maintained a permanent, not temporary, office for the practice of law in Michigan and by regularly, and not just occasionally, engaging in the practice of law in that state in relation to his bankruptcy practice.

Consider also In re Desilets, 2000 Bankr. LEXIS 1599 (Bankr. W.D. Mich.). The U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Michigan considered en banc whether to suspend Texas lawyer Rittenhouse from the practice of law before that court (see preceding case for further details). Rittenhouse agreed to settle the matter by consenting to the entry of a judgment which suspended him from the practice of law before the bankruptcy court indefinitely and which also permanently enjoined him from practicing law in any manner whatsoever arising in, under, or relating to any bankruptcy case in the district. The stipulated judgment included a provision that Rittenhouse could move the bankruptcy court to reconsider the terms and conditions of the court's judgment if the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan reversed the chief judge's prior declaratory judgment (it did not; see preceding case above) or if the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reversed that judgment.

Another case worthy of review is In re Lite Ray Realty Corp., 2001 Bankr. LEXIS 11 (Bankr. S.D.N.Y.). The debtor in possession moved to retain the Law Offices of Shmuel Klein, P.C. as its attorney. Klein, the sole member of the firm, was admitted to practice law in New York, but had been suspended for misconduct for five years commencing July 20, 1997. He was nevertheless a member of the bar of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. The question before the bankruptcy court was whether Klein's firm should be allowed to represent the debtor in its bankruptcy proceeding.

The court found that Klein maintained a bankruptcy law practice in New York notwithstanding the suspension of his license to practice law there. The court noted that the order suspending Klein from the practice of law in New York stated that 'during the period of his suspension, he must desist and refrain from practicing law, appearing in court as an attorney, giving legal advice or opinions or holding himself out in any way as an attorney and counselor-at-law.' (citation omitted). The court then considered the question whether he was permitted to represent the debtor because, notwithstanding his suspension from practice in New York, he was admitted to practice before the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. 'We may take as a given that if he is retained in this case, he will engage in the unauthorized practice of law unless his admission to practice in the Southern District insulates him from that charge.'

Relying on the case of Spanos v. Skouras Theatres Corp., 364 F.2d 161 (2d Cir.), cert. den., 385 U.S. 987, 17 L.Ed.2d 448, 87 S.Ct. 597 (1966), the court concluded that while a lawyer suspended in one jurisdiction, but admitted in another could perhaps appear in a case pro hac vice, he could not take up the general practice of law in a state he was not admitted in. 'His federal court admission may permit him to appear in a specific case in the type of situation described in Spanos, but it does not permit him to open a local office and practice generally, even if his practice is limited to bankruptcy.' (footnote omitted).

The bankruptcy court denied the debtor's application to be represented by Klein's law firm. 'To repeat what has been said, the federal court determines who may practice before it, but that doesn't mean, as Klein implies, that his state suspension does not affect his ability to practice bankruptcy law or appear in this Court. At most, he may only appear in collaboration with a licensed attorney, but he cannot practice law - even bankruptcy law - generally. The debtor's application to retain him stretches the definition of 'attorney' too far, and accordingly, it must be denied.'

And at the state court level, consider Chandris, S.A. v. Yanakakis, 668 So.2d 180 (Fla. 1996) (Sperry [see discussion below] did not permit an out-of-state lawyer who resided in Florida to contract to represent an injured seaman in a federal Jones Act case in Florida; there was no general federal law exception to Florida's bar admission procedures).

ARGUMENTS IN FAVOR OF A 'FEDERAL PRACTICE' EXCEPTION TO THE OREGON BAR EXAMINATION
As long as Lawyer X restricted his practice to federal tax law, an argument could be made that such a practice was permissible in Oregon. Consistent with the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Sperry v. Florida, 373 U.S. 379, 10 L.Ed.2d 428, 83 S.Ct. 1322 (1963), in which the court held a nonlawyer could perform tasks incident to the preparation and prosecution of federal patent applications before the U.S. Patent Office from an office in Florida notwithstanding Florida's prohibition against the unlawful practice of law, a lawyer restricting his practice to matters involving federal tax law could claim federal law preempted state restrictions against the unlawful practice of law. See also The Florida Bar v. Kaiser, 397 So.2d 1132, 1133 (Fla. 1981)('Neither The Florida Bar nor the referee have suggested that Kaiser can or should be restricted in any way from practicing naturalization or immigration law in this state even though he is not a member of The Florida Bar, See Sperry v. The Florida Bar, 373 U.S. 379, 83 S.Ct. 1322, 10 L.2d 428 (1963), and nothing in this opinion should be construed as suggesting otherwise.').

It should be noted that the U.S. Supreme Court in the Sperry case indicated that 'We do not question the determination that under Florida law the preparation and prosecution of patent applications for others constitutes the practice of law.' 373 U.S. at 383. The Court's holding was rather that Florida's UPL prohibition could not interfere with a person's right to perform functions authorized by federal law. Under the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution, the federal statute which authorized qualified nonlawyers to practice before the U.S. Patent Office was superior to and could not be hindered or obstructed by Florida's unlawful practice of law statute. Lawyer X would need to review the Internal Revenue Code and IRS regulations to determine if his federal tax practice was explicitly covered by authorizing language similar to the federal patent office statutes discussed in Sperry.

Several recent 9th Circuit cases arguably support the contention that a lawyer can also practice law before federal courts on a recurring basis in a state in which he is not admitted to practice.

Consider Brown v. Smith, 222 F.3d 618 (9th Cir. 2000). Mary Poole, a debtor, filed a voluntary Chapter 13 bankruptcy petition in 1997 in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Arizona. She was represented by Smith who listed his place of business as Scottsdale, Arizona. Smith was a member of the Illinois Bar and was admitted to practice law before the U.S. District Court of Arizona as a non-resident lawyer. He was not a member of the Arizona State Bar.

The trustee objected to Poole's plan because he believed that since Smith was not licensed to practice law in Arizona, he was not an attorney for purposes of federal bankruptcy law and therefore could not be paid the attorney's fees set forth in the plan. Both the bankruptcy court and the Bankruptcy Appellate Panel ruled against the trustee. The trustee appealed to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.

A panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Smith had authority to practice before the U.S. District Court of Arizona and the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for that district as a non-resident lawyer. The appellate court affirmed the lower court rulings, indicating that 'The only appropriate method of challenging Smith's right to practice before the United States Bankruptcy Courts in Arizona is to seek his suspension or disbarment from practice before the District Court of Arizona using procedures that comport with Due Process. The trustee cannot employ a collateral attack based on state law to prevent Smith from practicing federal bankruptcy law in Arizona. The bankruptcy court and the Bankruptcy Appellate Panel were entirely correct in reaching a similar conclusion.'

The appellate court noted that the U.S. District Court of Arizona's rules had changed since the trustee challenged Smith's authority in the instant case. Smith prevailed because at the time out-of-state lawyers could also be admitted to practice law before the federal courts in the District of Arizona so long as they did not reside or maintain an office in Arizona. The then applicable rule (U.S. District Court of Arizona Local Rule 1.5(c)) provided that '[i]f the applicant becomes an Arizona resident and/or intends to maintain a principal office or practice in Arizona, he or she must reapply under paragraph (b) of this Rule.'

The U.S. District Court of Arizona changed its admission rules effective Sept. 15, 1999. They now restrict regular admission to lawyers who are members of the Arizona State Bar. Lawyers in private practice who are not admitted to practice law in Arizona and who are admitted to practice before another U.S. District Court can seek pro hac vice admission to practice before the U.S. District Court of Arizona, but such admissions are subject to the following restrictions: 'Unless authorized by the Constitution of the United States or an Act of Congress, an attorney is not eligible to practice pursuant to this subparagraph (b)(3) if any one or more of the following apply: (i) the attorney resides in Arizona, (ii) the attorney is regularly employed in Arizona, or (iii) the attorney is regularly engaged in the practice of law in Arizona.' See U.S. District Court of Arizona Local Rule 1.5(b)(3). Smith might not have qualified for pro hac vice admission under this standard if it had been in place at the time of his representation of Poole. As indicated, effective Sept. 15, 1999, regular admission to practice law in the U.S. District Court of Arizona has been restricted to active members in good standing of State Bar of Arizona.

Consider also In re Mendez, 231 B.R. 86 (B.A.P. 9th Cir. 1999), aff'd, 230 F.3d 1367 (9th Cir. 2000). A bankrupt's trustee objected to the attorney fees contained in the debtor's Chapter 13 bankruptcy plan. The trustee sought an order directing the lawyer to disgorge those fees. Relying on In re Peterson, 163 B.R. 665 (Bankrtcy D. Conn. 1994), the trustee argued that since Mr. Smith, the lawyer, was not admitted to practice law in Arizona, he could not be considered an attorney for purposes of an award of attorney fees under the applicable U.S. District Court of Arizona bankruptcy court rules. The bankruptcy court ruled in favor of the trustee initially, considered the matter further, and then ruled in favor of the lawyer. The trustee appealed the bankruptcy court's ruling in favor of the lawyer to the United States Bankruptcy Appellate Panel of the 9th Circuit. That panel affirmed the bankruptcy court's ruling in favor of the lawyer.

The principal issue in the case was whether Mr. Smith, the lawyer, should be required to disgorge the fees he was entitled to receive under the Chapter 13 bankruptcy plan he prepared for his client, Mr. Mendez. The trustee asserted that Smith's activities in Arizona were essentially comparable to those the Peterson court found to constitute the unlawful practice of law. The trustee asserted that Smith maintained offices both in Illinois, where he was licensed to practice law, and Arizona, where he was not licensed. The trustee contended that Smith was required to be a member of the State Bar of Arizona under Arizona law to practice law in Arizona, including in federal court in Arizona. Smith asserted that his primary residence, primary practice and staff where in Illinois, that he went to Arizona as needed to see clients and hold meetings from a location he rented on an hourly basis and that the only services performed by his office in Arizona for Arizona clients was the forwarding of telephone messages and mail to his office in Illinois. He stated that he maintained a toll free telephone number for Arizona clients to contact him or his staff in Illinois. Smith also indicated that he was admitted as a nonresident lawyer to practice law before the U.S. District Court of Arizona and that that admission permitted him to practice law in bankruptcy court in the U.S. District Court of Arizona as well.

The appellate panel concluded that the bankruptcy court did not abuse its discretion in ruling that Smith was entitled to the fees contained in his client's Chapter 13 bankruptcy plan. The appellate panel distinguished the lawyer's activities in the Peterson case from those engaged in by Smith, indicating that:

There is no evidence whatsoever in the record in this case to support the trustee's assertion that Smith maintained a primary office in Arizona, solicited Arizona residents for bankruptcy business, or engaged in the general practice of law in Arizona, and Smith flatly denies those allegations. There is no evidence regarding the scope and nature of Smith's activities in Arizona in general, or the extent to which Arizona state law issues and bankruptcy issues may have been interwoven in the proceedings below. On the other hand, Smith's certification by the district court as a 'non-resident attorney' under Rule 1.5(c) and his maintenance of an office in Illinois are undisputed, and the record contains no evidence to contradict any of his factual assertions underlying his 'non-resident attorney' status. [In re Mendez, 231 B.R. at 91.]

The appellate panel affirmed the bankruptcy court's order overruling the trustee's objections to the attorney fee provision in the debtor's bankruptcy plan, allowing compensation to Smith, and denying the trustee's motion to require Smith to disgorge the fees awarded to him.

One additional case should be considered. See Attorney Grievance Commission of Maryland v. Bridges, 360 Md. 489, 759 A.2d 233 (2000). Bridges was a lawyer licensed to practice law in Ohio, Pennsylvania and the U.S. District Court of Maryland, among other bars. He was not licensed to practice law in Maryland until June 20, 1995.

The Attorney Grievance Commission of Maryland (AGC) received complaints about the conduct of one Albert Carter from Kaibeh Johnson in August and September 1995. The complaints related to legal services Johnson allegedly sought and paid for from Carter in 1994. Part of what the AGC received from Johnson was a letter Bridges had apparently prepared for Carter which indicated that Bridges had employed Carter for a period of time as an 'Independent Paralegal/Assistant Appellate Counsel.' The AGC subsequently sought information from Bridges about his purported letter on behalf of Carter. This inquiry led to the AGC charging Bridges with several ethics violations, one of which was the practice of law in Maryland without being a member of the Maryland bar.

The Maryland Court of Appeals dismissed the charge of unlawful practice of law against Bridges (Bridges was reprimanded on other charges) on the basis that his limited activities representing clients in federal cases from a home office in Maryland was permitted under the authority of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Sperry v. Florida, 373 U.S. 379, 83 S.Ct. 1322, 10 L.Ed.2d 428 (1963) and its own decision in Kennedy v. Bar Association of Montgomery County, 316 Md. 646, 561 A.2d 200 (1989). The court stated:

In summary, there is no clear and convincing evidence that Respondent held himself out as an attorney practicing law in Maryland within the proscription of the Md. Code or our rules of conduct for attorneys. Respondent did not maintain a regular Maryland office for the practice of law, advertise in any capacity, distribute business cards stating a Maryland street address, hang a shingle outside of his home, or create letterhead with a Maryland address where he could be found. Respondent testified that he only solicited his clients through various federal registries, and never through a general public solicitation. There is evidence that Respondent did, on occasion, meet with clients in his home, however, this is consistent with both Sperry and Kennedy, and is insufficient to support a violation. As a result, we sustain Respondent's exception and find that Bar Counsel did not establish by clear and convincing evidence that Respondent violated MRPC 5.5(a) and BOP 10-602.

The Bridges court appears to have approved a licensing exception in Maryland based on the Kennedy case. The exception involves out-of-state lawyers who practice before the Maryland federal courts from Mayland - so long as they do not hold themselves out as practicing lawyers in Maryland, and so long as they focus their practice exclusively on those federal lawsuits.

An out-of-state lawyer's reliance on the foregoing three cases to claim a right to practice before the federal courts in Oregon from an office in Oregon would not be prudent. The U.S. District Court of Oregon, including the U.S. Bankruptcy Court of Oregon, restricts general admission to practice before the court to lawyers of good moral character who are active members of the Oregon State Bar. See U.S. District Court of Oregon Local Rule 83.2 (there are several exceptions to this rule, but they do not apply to the question at hand).

The State Bar of Arizona issued a formal ethics opinion in October 2000 which appears to acknowledge the ability of out-of-state lawyers to set up federal law practices in Arizona without taking and passing the Arizona bar examination. Opinion No. 2000-8 states that it is ethically permissible for an Arizona law firm to list on its letterhead as 'Of Counsel' lawyers who are not admitted to the State Bar of Arizona. The letterhead must indicate that those lawyers are not admitted to practice law in Arizona, identify that they are admitted only in certain states, and that their practice in Arizona is limited to federal law matters. The facts of the opinion indicate that the out-of-state lawyers intended to restrict their Arizona practice from an office in Arizona to claims against the federal Social Security Administration and appeals of Social Security cases before the federal courts in Arizona. As noted above, the out-of-state lawyers would not appear to be entitled to admission to practice before the U.S. District Court of Arizona because they would be residing in Arizona, would be regularly employed in Arizona, or would be regularly engaged in the practice of law in Arizona.

OBSERVATIONS
Lawyer X would be wise to consult with an Oregon lawyer specializing in lawyer ethics issues before proceeding with the establishment of a law practice in Oregon limited to federal tax matters only. If Lawyer X chose to proceed with the establishment of such a practice, he would want to clearly indicate on any letterhead, office sign, business card or advertisement that he was admitted to the practice of law in Washington, D.C. only and not in Oregon and that his practice was limited to federal tax matters only. Lawyer X would also want to scrupulously avoid any activity which might be construed to constitute the practice of law in Oregon generally.

The state bar staff has given reactions to lawyers on previous occasions concerning this question. In January 1996 we indicated that it appeared permissible under the Sperry case for an out-of-state lawyer to establish an immigration law practice in Oregon limited to those activities permitted by applicable federal immigration laws and regulations. The suggestion was made that the lawyer make a disclosure along the lines of 'Practice limited to U.S. Immigration Law only; not admitted in Oregon' in any advertisements and on the lawyer's letterhead.

In February 1997 a Washington lawyer wrote the bar about whether he could provide legal services to Oregon clients relating to patent, trademark and copyright issues. The lawyer was a registered patent agent. The lawyer posed the question whether he could offer these intellectual property services in the State of Oregon without being a member of the Oregon State Bar. The reaction he received from the bar was that he could meet with Oregon residents in Oregon to discuss their rights under federal law, but could not discuss their rights under the common law even if attendant to a discussion of their federal rights. Another proffered possibility was for Oregon residents to meet with the Washington lawyer in Washington where the lawyer could review their federal and state law rights, even if the latter were based on Oregon law. The lawyer would not be physically practicing law in Oregon and except for perhaps a heightened malpractice concern, it was suggested this may be permissible. The lawyer was also urged to ensure that any advertisement of his federal law practice in Oregon media was clear regarding the limitations on his practice in Oregon so the public was not misled about his status in Oregon.

In December 2000 bar staff was asked whether a New York lawyer could join a Portland firm and limit her practice to U.S. immigration and naturalization matters only. Staff's reaction was that she could practice immigration law and immigration law only without being a member of the Oregon State Bar. It was suggested that she be listed on the firm's letterhead and on her business card as 'Admitted in New York only; practice limited to federal immigration law only.' Staff also suggested that the New York lawyer, as an associate of the firm, could not directly counsel, advise or assist clients on any matters that involved the application and interpretation of Oregon law. Staff observed that while this restriction would be difficult to follow, to allow the New York lawyer to resolve state law issues merely because they were somehow considered pendent to a client's 'federal' matters would effectively do away with state regulation (licensing) of lawyers handling 'federal' matters.

SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION
What can be distilled from the foregoing pro and con discussion on whether out-of-state lawyers can lawfully set up 'federal practices' in Oregon without taking and passing the Oregon bar examination? Lawyers considering this possibility here or elsewhere should:

1. Carefully review the legal basis for a claim of right to practice 'federal law.' Is it bankruptcy law, federal tax law, Social Security law, patent and trademark law, immigration and naturalization law or some other area of federal law? Each category of a claimed 'federal practice' has its own set of governing statutes, rules and regulations. If a lawyer seeks to rely on the holding in Sperry v. Florida, 373 U.S. 379, 10 L.Ed.2d 428, 83 S.Ct. 1322 (1963) to establish a 'federal law' practice in a state he or she is not licensed in, the lawyer needs to comply with and stay within the parameters of the applicable federal law, rules and regulations.

2. Carefully review the courts' rulings in In re Desilets, 247 B.R. 660 (Bankr. W.D. Mich 2000), aff'd, Rittenhouse v. Delta Home Improvement, Inc., 255 B.R. 294 (W.D. Mich. 2000). These cases are a strong basis for concluding that an out-of-state lawyer cannot set up a bankruptcy practice in a state he is not licensed in even if the lawyer is admitted to the bar of the federal court in that state.

3. Eschew consideration of any state law issues in a contemplated 'federal law' practice. As pointed out in the cases cited in 2. above, that may not be possible. If it is not, the lawyer needs to take and pass the bar examination in that state. If it is, the lawyer should consider making full disclosure and obtain each client's consent to this limitation on the advice and assistance the lawyer intends to provide. The disclosure should include the recommendation that the client consult a lawyer licensed in the state in question for advice on any applicable state law issues.

4. Scrupulously avoid any misleading advertising or other practice identifiers such as office signs, business cards and letterhead. 'Practice limited to U.S. Immigration and Naturalization matters only; Licensed to Practice Law in X State only' is an example of a disclosure that should be used in all practice advertising and identifiers.

5. Obtain malpractice coverage. As these lawyers are not members of the Oregon State Bar, they are not subject to malpractice coverage by the Oregon State Bar Professional Liability Fund. That doesn't mean there aren't a number of good reasons to obtain and maintain malpractice coverage concerning the lawyer's 'federal practice.'

Can out-of-state lawyers set up 'federal practices' in Oregon without taking and passing the Oregon bar examination? I am not aware of any clear Oregon answers to this question. This is a touchy subject. Why go into it? Because it is happening more often than most lawyers think. To any lawyer considering this possibility in Oregon or another state, go slow. This is a minefield. Get expert ethics advice and consider the points made above before you decide a course of action. My default reaction to out-of-state lawyers considering establishing 'federal practices' in Oregon: Take the Oregon bar examination. It's worth the peace of mind. +


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

George A. Riemer is deputy director and general counsel of the Oregon State Bar. He can be reached at (503) 620-0222, ext. 405, or by e-mail at griemer@ osbar.org.


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