November 2008Client Alert

Wisconsin Supreme Court Requires Registration for In-House Attorneys

Under new Wisconsin Supreme Court Rules issued July 30, 2008 (S.Ct. Order No. 06-06), lawyers employed as in-house counsel in Wisconsin but not licensed in Wisconsin must register with the Wisconsin Board of Bar Examiners in order to perform job-related legal services.

The new rule (SCR 20.5.5) allows a lawyer admitted to practice in another U.S. jurisdiction or a foreign jurisdiction, who is not disbarred or suspended in any jurisdiction for disciplinary reasons or medical incapacity, to provide legal services in Wisconsin that are provided to the lawyer’s employer or its organizational affiliates after complying with the registration requirements of SCR 10.03(4)(f), and are not services for which the forum requires pro hac vice admission.

In-house lawyers practicing under this registration/limited license rule will be able to count time served under the registration toward eligibility for full licensure in Wisconsin. Admission by motion procedures will allow practice under this limited license to count toward the “practice of law” requirement, enabling in-house lawyers to become fully-licensed with the passage of time. Absent admission by motion, Wisconsin licensure requires taking the bar exam.

The new rule becomes effective January 1, 2009 and registration is required within 90 days of the effective date of the rule – by April 1, 2009. After the rule becomes effective, lawyers must register within 60 days after commencement of employment as a lawyer. SCR 10.03(4)(f).

To register, in-house counsel must submit to the Board of Bar Examiners:

1. a completed application form, available at the Supreme Court Website at ;

2. an annual nonrefundable $250 fee;

3. documents proving admission to practice law in the primary jurisdiction in which counsel is admitted to practice law; and

4. an affidavit from an officer, director or general counsel of the employing entity attesting to the lawyer’s employment by the entity and the capacity in which the lawyer is employed.

Registration authorizes the in-house lawyer to provide legal services to the entity, client or its organizational affiliates, including entities that control or are controlled by, or are under common control with the employer, and for employees, officers, and directors of such entities, but only on matters directly related to their work for the entity and only to the extent consistent with the ethics rules on concurrent conflicts (SCR 20:1.7).

The rule applies to lawyers admitted in any other U.S. jurisdiction or foreign jurisdiction employed as a lawyer in Wisconsin on a continuing basis and exclusively by a corporation, association or other non-governmental entity (the business of which is not provision of legal services).

Separate pro hac vice admission is also required by counsel who desire to appear – whether in person, by signing pleadings, or being designated as counsel – in actions filed in courts, administrative agencies, or other tribunals in Wisconsin.

For more information, please contact Ann Ustad Smith at 608.283.2251, or or your Michael Best attorney.

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