Bar Counsel

Tri-State Reciprocity

It is possible it will become a reality before the end of 2001

By George A. Riemer

I have previously written about the feasibility of establishing a simplified bar admission process for the Northwest states.1 The Oregon State Bar, in cooperation with the Idaho State Bar and Washington State Bar Association, is moving forward with a proposal to permit reciprocity admission between Idaho, Oregon and Washington without the necessity of lawyers taking and passing two additional bar examinations. This article is an update on developments concerning this tri-state reciprocity rule.

The Oregon State Bar, Idaho State Bar, and Washington State Bar Association convened a study group to look at the admission procedures of all three states for purposes of possible coordination of admission procedures in 1999. The study group issued a report to the boards of the three state bars in October 2000 in which it recommended that the three states permit reciprocity without examination, subject to certain conditions and restrictions.

The study group's report has been considered by each state bar and the following is the status of developments in each jurisdiction:

1. Idaho. The board of commissioners submitted the study group's proposal (tailored to Idaho's admission rules) to a vote of the Idaho bar membership under its referendum rules. The vote was announced in December 2000 and 66 percent of those voting approved of the proposal. The Idaho State Bar has since that time sent the proposed reciprocity rule to the Idaho Supreme Court which has the proposal under advisement at this time.

2. Oregon. The board of governors and the Oregon Board of Bar Examiners (BBX) have been considering the proposal (tailored to Oregon's admission rules) since receiving the study group's report. The board of governors approved the proposal Jan. 27, 2001, and it is presently before the Oregon Board of Bar Examiners. A packet of admission rule changes to implement the proposal will be presented to the BBX for adoption soon. Assuming their approval by the BBX, the rules will likely be submitted to the Oregon Supreme Court for adoption by the end of April 2001. If the Idaho and Oregon Supreme Courts adopt their respective rules to authorize tri-state reciprocity, it is hoped the rules will go into effect on the same date.

The Oregon State Bar conducted a telephone survey (which was statistically valid with a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percent) of OSB members in November 2000. The survey asked members whether they supported admission reciprocity between Idaho, Oregon and Washington. Seventy-eight percent of the respondents indicated they supported tri-state admission reciprocity. Only 11 percent opposed the concept (the other 11 percent indicated they would need more information before deciding either way).

3. Washington. The Washington Supreme Court adopted a 'reciprocity' rule for Washington in September 1999. If Idaho and Oregon adopt tri-state reciprocity rules, Washington will mirror the Idaho and Oregon rules for members of the Idaho and Oregon State Bars. In other words, Washington will admit Idaho and Oregon lawyers to the practice of law in Washington on the same terms and conditions Idaho and Oregon will use in admitting Washington lawyers.

The essential elements of the tri-state reciprocity proposal are as follows:

1. Graduation from an ABA-approved law school with an earned Juris Doctor degree.

2. Prior passage of the Idaho, Oregon and/or Washington bar examinations.

3. Three years of practice in one of those states.

4. A showing of good moral character.

5. Fifteen hours of continuing legal education in the practice, procedure and ethics of the new state or states a lawyer desires to be admitted to practice in within six months of admission to practice in each such state.

6. For admission to practice in Oregon, either malpractice coverage through the PLF or a showing of comparable malpractice coverage covering the lawyer's practice in Oregon (this will depend on whether the lawyer's principal office for the practice of law is in Oregon, Idaho or Washington).

While other changes will need to be made to Oregon's admission rules to implement tri-state reciprocity, the full text of the principal rule on the subject is as follows (this is the rule the board of governors of the Oregon State Bar approved on Jan. 27, 2001):

Rules for Admission of Attorneys in Oregon
Proposed Rule 16
Admission of Lawyers Licensed to Practice Law in Idaho and Washington
(1) Lawyers who have taken and passed the Idaho and/or Washington bar examinations, who are active members of either or both of those state bars as a result of the passage of those examinations, and who have actively, substantially and continuously practiced law in one or both of these states for no less than three years immediately preceding their application for admission under this rule may be admitted to the practice of law in Oregon without having to take and pass the Oregon bar examination, subject to the requirements of this rule.
(2) All Idaho and Washington lawyers seeking admission to practice law in Oregon under this rule must:
(a) present satisfactory proof of their:
(1) graduation from an ABA approved law school with a Juris Doctor degree;
(2) passage of the Idaho and/or Washington bar examinations;
(3) admission to the practice of law in Idaho and/or Washington;
(4) active membership in the Idaho State Bar and/or Washington State Bar Association; and
(5) active, substantial and continuous practice of law in one or both of these states for no less than three years immediately preceding their application for admission under this rule;
(b) possess the good moral character and fitness required of all other applicants for admission to practice law in Oregon;
(c) complete such applications and submit such other information as may be required by the Oregon Board of Bar Examiners and Oregon Supreme Court; and
(d) pay such application fees and costs as may be established by the Oregon Board of Bar Examiners and the Oregon Supreme Court for applicants under this rule.
(3) The character and fitness of applicants under this rule shall be reviewed under the procedures set forth in Admission Rule 6.05, 6.15, and 9.05 to 9.60.
(4) Each qualified applicant must execute a prescribed oath of office to be filed with the State Court Administrator. Each applicant's date of admission shall be the date the oath is received by the State Court administrator. Applicants must comply with the requirements of Admission Rule 8.15 (Resident Agent for Service of Process) and 8.20 (Address and Telephone Number Designation).
(5) All applicants admitted to practice law pursuant to this rule shall complete and certify no later than six months following the applicant's admission to practice law under this rule that he or she has attended at least fifteen hours of continuing legal education on Oregon practice and procedure and ethics requirements. The Board of Bar Examiners may by regulation specify the number of hours of the required fifteen hours that must be in particular areas of practice, procedure, and ethics.
(6) All applicants admitted to practice law pursuant to this rule shall obtain and maintain malpractice coverage from the Oregon State Bar Professional Liability Fund as required by the rules and regulations of the fund. If an applicant is not required to maintain malpractice coverage through the Oregon State Bar Professional Liability Fund, the applicant shall obtain and maintain other malpractice coverage covering the applicant's law practice in Oregon which coverage shall be substantially equivalent to the Oregon State Bar Professional Liability Fund coverage plan.
(7) All applicants admitted to practice law pursuant to this rule shall be subject to and shall comply with the Oregon Code of Professional Responsibility, the Oregon State Bar Rules of Procedures, and all other rules and regulations applicable to members of the Oregon State Bar.
(8) If, in the judgment of the Oregon Supreme Court, it is in the best interest of the State of Oregon to discontinue reciprocity with other states, such decision may be implemented immediately by order of the court. Additional states may be added to this rule by order of the court upon petition of the Board of Governors of the Oregon State Bar and the Board of Bar Examiners without the necessity of amendment of this rule.

Now is an opportune time to voice your opinion about the foregoing tri-state reciprocity rule. From all reports, anecdotal and otherwise, strong support appears to exist among the membership for the rule. If interested, drop Ed Harnden, OSB president, or me a line with your thoughts, whatever they may be. It is possible that tri-state reciprocity will become a reality before the end of 2001. In my opinion, that would be a good thing for Idaho, Oregon and Washington lawyers and all the clients they serve. +

1. 'Bar Exam Migraine - Is a state-based bar examination obsolete?', OSB Bulletin, July 1999 and 'A Northwest Bar? - Admission study group focuses on reciprocity', OSB Bulletin, February/March 2000.

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@

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