Special Committee Multijurisdictional Practice

The Multijurisdictional Committee and its Assignment

The Board of Governors of the District of Columbia Bar formed the MJP Committee in November 2001 to recommend whether changes should be made to the District of Columbia Rules of Professional Conduct, or to other relevant rules governing the delivery of legal services, as those rules relate to multijurisdictional practice. “Multijurisdictional practice” refers to practice in one jurisdiction by a lawyer admitted only elsewhere.

At the time the Board of Governors appointed the MJP Committee, the American Bar Association’s Commission on Multijurisdictional Practice was studying ethics and bar admission rules regarding multijurisdictional practice and developing recommendations governing multijurisdictional practice. The ABA Commission filed its Final Report with the ABA House of Delegates in June of 2002. In August of 2002, the ABA House of Delegates adopted the Commission’s recommendations with relatively minor changes. Among other things, the House of Delegates (1) amended the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct to permit multijurisdictional practice on a temporary basis, subject to certain restrictions; (2) amended the Model Rules to subject lawyers to the disciplinary authority of any jurisdiction in which they engage in multijurisdictional practice; and (3) adopted a new Model Rule on pro hac vice admission. The MJP Committee considered all of the ABA Commission’s recommendations as adopted by the House of Delegates.[2]

The MJP Committee began meeting in March 2002. The Committee determined early in its deliberations that, to a substantial degree, the current D.C. rule excepting much multijurisdictional practice from the definition of the unauthorized practice of law – Rule 49 of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals – is consistent with new ABA Model Rule 5.5, which addresses multijurisdictional practice. One important difference between the D.C. rules and the ABA Model Rules, however, involves the authority of the D.C. disciplinary system over lawyers engaged in multijurisdictional practice in the District of Columbia. ABA Model Rule 8.5(a) provides that a lawyer not admitted in a jurisdiction is subject to that jurisdiction’s disciplinary authority if the lawyer provides any legal services in that jurisdiction. This provision has no current equivalent in the District of Columbia. As a general matter, lawyers engaged in multijurisdictional practice in the District of Columbia are not now subject to disciplinary jurisdiction here.

The Committee devoted most of its deliberations to the issue of disciplinary authority over lawyers engaged in multijurisdictional practice in the District of Columbia. On February 6, 2004, the Committee issued a unanimous Interim Report to the Board of Governors on Disciplinary System Issues. On April 13, 2004, the Board of Governors approved the Interim Report. On September 30, 2004, the Committee issued its unanimous final report and recommendations.

On November 9, 2004, the Board of Governors approved the Committee’s final report. As described above, however, the Board subsequently decided not to transmit the report to the Court of Appeals. This report, which is now submitted for the Court’s consideration, covers only the proposed substantive revisions to D.C. Court of Appeals Rule 49 on the unauthorized practice of law.

  1. Thirty-three states have adopted the ABA Model Rules on multijurisdictional practice, or a variation of it, since the ABA adopted amendments to the Model Rules of Professional Conduct in 2002. The highest courts of Illinois, Michigan, Montana, New York, and Virginia are currently considering recommendations to adopt rules about multijurisdictional practice modeled on ABA Model Rules 5.5 and 8.5. Posting of John Holtaway, [email protected], to [email protected] (Apr. 18, 2007); http://www.abanet.org/cpr/jclr/5_5_quick_guide.pdf; http://www.abanet.org/cpr/jclr/8_5_quick_guide.pdf (visited on April 23, 2007).