Rules Governing Admission to the Bar for In-House Counsel
The issue of unauthorized practice of law is a concern for all attorneys, and something that periodically does catch up with patent attorneys. The typical scenario where this issue arises is when patent attorneys are admitted in one state and have an office in another state but provide more than patent related services. When an attorney accepts a job as an in-house counsel, the potential for problems associated with the unauthorized practice of law similarly present themselves. Different states have different regulations and procedures that must be followed when an out-of-state attorney relocates to become in-house counsel. Although in-house counsel should always consult the rules and regulations of the state where their employer is located, a common thread in these rules and regulations is that the in-house lawyer must be a full-time employee and may only provide legal services for the employer (including parent, affiliate and subsidiaries). However, in-house attorneys with out-of-state registrations are frequently allowed, often even encouraged, to provide pro bono representation through recognized legal aid organizations. The American Bar Association has compiled links to information for each state, which is current through November 7, 2019. In-House Corporate Counsel Registration Rules (last visited December 14, 2019). What follows below is a discussion of how several states with higher populations of patent attorneys handle admission for out-of-state in-house counsel. We will review the rules for Virginia, Texas, California, New York, Illinois and Florida.