Court of Appeals Amends Rule Governing Legal Assistance by Law Students, Jurisdiction

October 8, 2014

On October 2 the District of Columbia Court of Appeals released an order amending the Rules of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals (D.C. App. R. 48) concerning the limited practice of law by law students, and Rule XI, Section 1 (a), of the Rules Governing the D.C. Bar, which defines the disciplinary jurisdiction of the court.

Under the amendment to Rule 48, eligible students may now practice law in accordance with the District of Columbia Unauthorized Practice Rule (D.C. App. R. 49). Eligible law students enrolled in a D.C. law school approved by the American Bar Association and the Committee on Admissions of the court may enter into the “limited practice of law” defined by section (a) (1) of Rule 49, provided they are guided by a supervising attorney and obtain written consent from the appropriate parties.

Also, eligible students who have satisfactorily completed a clinical course at a D.C. law school and are either still in law school or are working for a clinic after graduation to represent clients of the clinical program are permitted to enter into the “limited practice of law” defined in Rule 49. If the student continues to practice under the rule after graduating, notice of an extension to continue practice must be sent by the dean of the law school to the Committee on Admissions. Such extensions may be permitted only once and may remain in effect for six months.

The amendment to Rule 48 also allows new faculty members at law schools to function as supervising attorneys for practicing law students provided they are an active member in good standing of the highest court of any state; submit an application for the D.C. Bar within 90 days after assuming the position of a clinical faculty member; have submitted an application to the D.C. Court of Appeals for a waiver of the rule; and are supervised by an enrolled, active D.C. Bar member. Visiting faculty members for one year or less are also permitted to function as supervising attorneys provided they satisfy all the previous requirements, (except for application to the D.C. Bar) and they complete the Mandatory Course on the D.C. Rules of Professional Conduct.

In accordance with Rule 49, law students may prepare any legal document; prepare or express legal opinions; appear before any tribunal that permits student practice; prepare any claims, demands, or pleadings of any kind, or any written documents containing legal argument or interpretation of law, for filing in any court, administrative agency, or other tribunal that permits student practice; and provide advice or counsel as to how any of the activities previously described might be done, and whether they were done, in accordance with applicable law.

Rule XI, Section 1 (a), concerning the disciplinary jurisdiction of the court, was amended to cover all new and visiting clinical professors providing services pursuant to Rule 48(e)(4).

The amended rules take effect on December 1.

View the official order.