July 11, 2001
Commission on Multi-Jurisdictional Practice
C/O John A. Holtaway
ABA Center for Professional Responsibility
541 No. Fairbanks Ct.
14 th Floor
Chicago, Illinois 60611
Re: Comments of the North Dakota Board of Law Examiners
Concerning Multijurisdictional Practice
The State Board of Law Examiners (SBLE) is responsible for the admission of lawyers to the North Dakota Bar. The members of the SBLE are appointed by the North Dakota Supreme Court. The scope of responsibilities of the SBLE includes administration of the bar exam, character and fitness investigations, and hearing of appeals from applicants who are denied admission.
The State Bar Association of North Dakota has formed a task force to study the issues involved in the multijurisdictional practice of law. The task force includes members who will represent the interests of the practicing bar, the Courts, consumers and SBLE. The task force is chaired by a SBLE member. The goals of the task force are to study the many issues raised by the multijurisdictional practice of law, review the Commission's final report when it is published, and make a recommendation to the Bar members at the annual meeting in June 2002. While it is premature for the SBLE to comment on the potential outcome of the task force's work, we would like to take this opportunity to raise concerns that must be addressed by the Commission as it deliberates on this issue.
1. North Dakota requires applicants for admission to the Bar to be graduates of ABA accredited law schools. While there may be states which do not have the same requirement, NDBLE believes that the Commission's final recommendations should recognize the rights of the individual states to set minimum education requirements for the practice of law within the state.
2. Any recommendation made by the Commission regarding multijurisdictional practice should recognize the need of each state supreme court to establish admission standards including character and fitness criteria for admission to the Bar.
3. Standards for continuing legal education must be established. While some states have not adopted mandatory continuing legal education requirements, any final recommendation regarding the multijurisdictional practice of law must recognize the need to establish an acceptable standard for continuing legal education.
4. The Commission's final recommendation must also recognize the need for each state supreme court to retain disciplinary authority over any lawyers who practice law within the state.
We are sure there will be several other issues that will be discussed and debated as the North Dakota task force deliberates this issue. As technology drives the practice of most professions towards an interstate, even international practice, it is important that multijurisdictional practice solutions not dilute the ability of the state supreme courts and bar admission authorities to assure that the citizens of their states continue to receive competent and ethical legal representation.
Thank you for permitting us to provide input as the Commission deliberates this important issue.
Rebecca S. Thiem
State Board of Law Examiners