The ABA provided information on the United States’ system of lawyer regulation last month to the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation, which is considering revisions to rules that enable foreign law firms to practice in Russia.
In a Dec. 5 letter to Russian Deputy Minister of Justice Denis Novak, ABA Governmental Affairs Director Thomas M. Susman explained that the regulation of lawyers and law firms in the United States is conducted at the state level and that the general regulatory approach for practice authority, professional conduct, and discipline addresses individual domestic and foreign lawyers rather than law firms. Rules adopted by the states to regulate foreign lawyers in various capacities – which have been based on model rules developed by the ABA – provide a variety of mechanisms that foreign lawyers and law firms can utilize to offer legal services in the United States.
Foreign law firms, Susman said, generally may establish offices in U.S. jurisdictions on the same or similar bases as U.S. law firms, with specific rules varying by state. Foreign firms in most cases can operate under their own name, open branch offices, take on U.S. clients, and enter employment and partner relationships with U.S.-licensed lawyers, he said.
Foreign-licensed lawyers also may establish an office through registration as foreign legal consultants. Thirty-three jurisdictions have adopted the ABA Model Rules for Licensing and Practice by Foreign Legal Consultants, which allow lawyers from outside the United States, upon certain conditions, to establish an office and advise clients on the law of the jurisdictions in which they are licensed without passing any examinations or undergoing any additional training.
Foreign lawyers also may access the U.S. legal services market by becoming fully admitted in the U.S. jurisdictions by sitting for a bar exam in the United States. Once admitted to practice in a jurisdiction, foreign lawyers enjoy all the rights and privileges afforded to U.S citizens who are members of the bar.
Foreign lawyers also may be able to engage in temporary practice through fly-in/fly-out arrangements.
“The ABA has long supported liberalized legal services markets, both in the United States and abroad, as a means to enhance the ability of lawyers and law firms to serve their clients effectively through cross-border practice,” Susman said. “The ABA believes that allowing these activities is critical not only for the mutual benefit of our legal practitioners and their clients, but also to promoting positive engagement between our respective legal professions and countries.”