Following is the 53rd post in a series from Parker Law Group about recent changes to the California Bar Association (CBA)’s Rules of Professional Conduct (RPC). This rule is found in Chapter 5 – “Law Firms and Associations,” focusing on the unauthorized practice of law. This Rule of Professional Conduct, as revised, is as follows:
Rule 5.5 Unauthorized Practice of Law; Multi-jurisdictional Practice of Law
(a) A lawyer admitted to practice law in California shall not:
(1) practice law in a jurisdiction where to do so would be in violation of regulations of the profession in that jurisdiction; or
(2) knowingly assist a person in the unauthorized practice of law in that jurisdiction.
(b) A lawyer who is not admitted to practice law in California shall not:
(1) except as authorized by these rules or other law, establish or maintain a resident office or other systematic or continuous presence in California for the practice of law; or
(2) hold out to the public or otherwise represent that the lawyer is admitted to practice law in California.
The CBA’s previous version of this rule in its RPC – Rule 1-300 (titled simply “Unauthorized Practice of Law”) – was half the size of the revised rule. As set forth above, Rule 5.5 in the revised RPC still warns California-licensed attorneys against practicing law in jurisdictions where they would be violating professional regulations if they did practice in those areas. It also still prohibits an attorney from knowingly assisting a person from unauthorized practice in those jurisdictions. (The word “knowingly” was added to the revised rule.) But the new rule now includes subdivision (b), stating that an attorney who has NOT been admitted to the California Bar shall not establish or maintain an office from which to practice law in this state, nor shall the attorney represent him- or herself in any way as having been admitted to practice law in California.
Because the American Bar Association (ABA)’s RPC pertains to attorneys throughout the country, not just in California, their version of this rule – Rule 5.5(a)-(e) – is much longer than the CBA’s rule. Subds. (a) and (b)(1)-(2) of ABA’s rule cover the same material discussed in CBA’s Rule 5.5(a)-(b), although the ABA says “this jurisdiction” instead of “California.” But the last three subdivisions of ABA’s rule focus on attorneys practicing in United States jurisdictions outside of California as well as foreign jurisdictions.
Benefit: Generally speaking, this rule provides a clear warning to any attorney licensed to practice law in California about the restrictions placed on them regarding the practice of law in different jurisdictions.
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