Supreme Court Adopts Foreign Legal Consultants Rule, Changes to Rules Involving Limited Licenses

On March 17, 2005, the Supreme Court adopted a number of changes to the Pennsylvania Bar Admission Rules and the Pennsylvania Rules of Disciplinary Enforcement related to limited licenses to practice law in Pennsylvania.

The most significant change was the adoption of new Bar Admission Rules 341 and 342, and amendments to Rules of Disciplinary Enforcement 102, 201, 203, 204, 212, 216, 217, 219, and 512, establishing a new special status of Foreign Legal Consultant.

Persons who are members in good standing of a recognized legal profession in a foreign country, the members of which are admitted to practice as attorneys or counselors at law or the equivalent and are subject to effective regulation and discipline by a duly constituted professional body or a public authority, are permitted to apply for the status of "foreign legal consultants," under which they would be permitted to render legal services in this Commonwealth with respect to the law of the foreign country where the foreign legal consultant is admitted to practice law. They may not, however, practice generally, and are forbidden from:

  • appearing on behalf of any other person in a court of the Commonwealth;
  • drafting documents for real estate in Pennsylvania;
  • preparing wills, trusts, and other instruments affecting decedents' estates or the transfer of property in the United States and owned by a resident of the United States;
  • preparing any instrument marital, parental, or custody rights of a resident of the United States;
  • rendering professional advice as to the laws of Pennsylvania or any other jurisdiction in the United States where the Foreign Legal Consultant is not admitted;
  • holding oneself out as a member of the bar of Pennsylvania; and
  • carrying on a practice under a name other than the Foreign Legal Consultant's own or that of a law firm with which he/she is affiliated.

The order adopting the new Rules 341 and 342 is published here. The full text of the new provisions is reported here.

The Supreme Court also adopted changes to several of the Rules of Disciplinary Enforcement to reflect the creation of the new limited licenses for Foreign Legal Consultants, military attorneys, and in-house corporate counsel. The same order also adopted certain changes to Rule 5.5 of the Pennsylvania Rules of Professional Conduct, regarding the practice of law by lawyers employed by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Those changes are published here, and the order adopting them is available here.