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BOSTON — A recent amendment to Massachusetts rules of professional conduct that requires in-house counsel working in the state but admitted elsewhere to register each year with the Board of Bar Overseers and pay up to a $300 fee is drawing flak. The rule issued by the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, which takes effect on June 1, is unnecessary, said Paul Nightingale, general counsel of HP Hood Inc. and the head of the advocacy committee of Northeast Chapter of the Association of Corporate Counsel. “It’s fixing a problem that doesn’t exist, but as long as they administer it reasonably we think it’s O.K.,” Nightingale said. Susan Hackett, senior vice president and general counsel of the association, said about two-thirds of the states have a registration requirement for in-house lawyers registered out of state as part of multijurisdictional practice reform. Hackett said her organization doesn’t object to a short form and a low fee, but some states have onerous procedures for affected lawyers. “A majority of states have these rules,” Hackett said. “What distinguishes them is how unnecessarily complicated some of these rules have become.” Michael Fredrickson, the Massachusetts’ board’s general counsel, said the rule addresses concerns about whether a lawyer registered elsewhere but practicing in the state for a corporation is engaged in the unauthorized practice of law. “There have been a couple of cases elsewhere that suggest the possibility that someone who could be found to engaging the unauthorized practice of law would not have attorney client privilege,” Fredrickson said. “This should provide some comfort is this area.”

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