Can a lawyer practice in any area?

It may be easy to fall into the school of thought that a lawyer is a lawyer, and as such, has privileges to do anything within the legal profession. You might even extend that opinion to positing that a lawyer can provide you with representation in any location. However, when lawyers seek authorization to practice law, they do so through their local state bar associations. That allows them to practice only within that jurisdiction. 

According to Section 5.5 of the American Bar Association's Model Rules of Professional Conduct, if a lawyer is not authorized to practice in a certain jurisdiction, they cannot establish an office or consistent presence there or engage in any other action that implies that they can offer you legal services. If you do seek such services from an attorney not operating within your local jurisdiction, that attorney must inform you of their lack of jurisdictional authorization. 

That does not necessarily mean that they are completely barred from representing you (at least temporarily). They can do so provided that any of the following conditions are met: 

  • Their services are provided in conjunction with those of another lawyer who is authorized to practice in your local jurisdiction
  • Their services are related to a pending or potential proceeding in your local jurisdiction (or any other) for which they believe the would be authorized to participate in
  • Their services to you are related to a matter in which they are involved in from their own jurisdiction

The lawyer must not be disbarred or suspended in any jurisdiction if you wish for them to represent you in any matter that is outside of their local practice area. 

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