In the United States, the states award licenses to practice law to applicants who want to join the profession. A lawyer may engage in the activities associated with the practice of law only if the lawyer is licensed by the licensing authority in a particular state.

The licensing agency is usually a state bar association. So, if a person has a legal issue in a state other than the state in which the person lives, they may need to hire a lawyer who is licensed and works in the other state.

When Do I Need an Out-Of-State Lawyer?

When a person needs to use a lawyer from a different state, they want the best lawyer they can find in their state of residence who has experience dealing with their type of legal matter. A person who lives in the same state in which you reside is knowledgeable about the law, the courts and the rules of legal practice of that state. Most importantly, the lawyer is licensed to practice law in that state.

If a person is dealing with an issue out of state, they want the same level of legal expertise and local know-how. For example, suppose a person is purchasing a residence in Florida or is involved in any other type of legal issue that must be resolved in Florida but the person resides in Massachusetts.

In this situation, having an attorney in Florida means the person has an attorney who can easily attend court hearings on their behalf and advise them about Florida law and the Florida court system. But most importantly, the lawyer would be licensed to practice law in Florida, which means the person is able to engage in any of the activities that constitute the practice of law in Florida. Any attorney who does not have a Florida license is not able to do this. That is why a person would need a Florida attorney to handle a legal matter in Florida.

The need to hire an out-of-state lawyer might come up in a variety of situations. For example, a person might move from Wisconsin to Illinois in the middle of the year. The person might still need to file a Wisconsin income tax return for the year; tax issues could arise and the person might need a Wisconsin tax lawyer for a Wisconsin state tax issue.

Or a person might own property in Maine where they spend several months a year. They might be involved in a car accident in that state and need a personal injury lawyer to represent them. A person’s parents might pass away in California, creating a state inheritance tax issue. All of the issues that can arise in the state in which a person lives can also arise in another state, leading to the need to hire a lawyer in another state.

How Do I Hire an Out-Of-State Attorney?

If a person is involved in a legal matter for which they have an in-state attorney, their attorney can often help them find an out-of-state attorney to handle that particular legal project that is under the jurisdiction of the out-of-state court. In these types of arrangements, the person’s local counsel will work closely with the out-of-state attorney to help protect their legal interests.

However, if a person is involved in a legal issue that is not related to an in-state matter, they may be looking to hire an out-of-state attorney on their own. The person can utilize the same process to secure the services of the out-of-state attorney as they would if they were looking for an in-state attorney.

As always, they can ask for recommendations from people they trust or from people who have worked with the recommended lawyer previously. Also, the attorney a person chooses should clearly explain the scope of the representation and what the person will be paying for the work the lawyer does.

Today there are a multitude of ways to search for an out-of-state lawyer. There are websites, including LegalMatch.com, that provide a person with a wealth of information about lawyers in any location in the United States. In order to hire a lawyer in another state, a person should simply contact the lawyer and discuss their case and the issues it presents. Of course, a person would also want to discuss a fee arrangement.

What is Required of Out-Of-State Lawyers?

In your search for a qualified attorney out of state, there are some additional things to keep in mind. A person wants to ensure that their out-of-state attorney is licensed in the state in which they practice. For example, in California, a person can go to the website of the State Bar of California at http://www.calbar.cal.gov and look up any licensed attorney in California by name. In New York state, a person can go to https://www.nycourts.gov/ and do the same.

Generally, in most states today, a licensed lawyer has an undergraduate college degree, a juris doctor degree (J.D.) and has passed a state’s licensing exam in order to earn a license to practice law. A person’s due diligence should always include checking for any ethical complaints or inquiries against the attorney.

Can a Lawyer Represent You in Another State?

Attorneys are required to be licensed in the state in which they work on a legal issue in order to avoid practicing law without a license, which is a criminal offense.

However, if a person has a pre-existing relationship with an attorney they trust, they may want that attorney to continue to represent them in connection with a matter in another state, even if they are not licensed in that state. For some matters, a person’s attorney may be able to represent the person for a specific matter or transaction if they are admitted pro hac vice.

To be admitted pro hac vice, which means for a certain matter only, the attorney must be licensed in a state in the U.S. They can then petition a court in another state to represent a client in a particular matter. The court may grant the petition, deny the petition or grant the petition with qualifications. For example, the court may require that the attorney who is admitted pro hac vice work together with a lawyer who is fully licensed in the state. The assumption is that the local attorney is familiar with local rules and state law, and this protects the client.

A successful pro hac vice application means the attorney can practice law in a foreign state without committing the unauthorized practice of law. The attorney will be required to satisfy certain strict requirements that ensure the attorney is qualified to practice before the out-of-state court and will comply with local rules. These requirements include:

  • Confirmation by a local attorney that the out-of-state attorney is in good standing and will comply with local rules and practices; and
  • Affirmation by the out-of-state attorney that they will abide by the local rules.

The pro hac vice attorney can be subject to discipline both in their own jurisdiction and in the foreign jurisdiction for violation of local rules and model rules of ethical conduct. Each state has procedures for how to apply for pro hac vice admission and what actions the attorney may take on behalf of their client with pro hac vice admission.

For example, some courts may not allow the pro hac vice attorney to file papers or appear in court, which means that the services of a local attorney will still be required.

Should I Discuss My Out-of-State Case with a Lawyer?

If you are dealing with a legal matter in another state, you should consult with an attorney in that state. In finding the right attorney for you, you should conduct the same due diligence that you would if you were hiring an attorney in your state of residence.

With the internet and LegalMatch.com, an ocean of information about lawyers all over the U.S. is available in an instant. A person should be able to identify an experienced and highly qualified lawyer to handle any legal issue anywhere in the nation.