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Out-of-state lawyers have received news sure to inspire envy among the state’s law students: Non-Georgia lawyers may not have to take the bar exam to practice there. Office of Bar Admissions Director Hulett H. “Bucky” Askew has mailed letters to candidates preparing for the lawyers’ bar exam, notifying them of a new order from the Supreme Court of Georgia. The court will allow lawyers licensed in other states to bypass the exam, a process called “admission on motion without examination.” The supreme court will allow the State Bar of Georgia to “admit on motion … any attorney licensed in a United States jurisdiction other than Georgia” if that attorney meets all the qualifications the order sets out. The measure recognizes that many lawyers serve clients who have interests all over the country, said Askew. “Lawyers see that their clients frequently have needs that are not limited by state lines,” he said. Askew said the Georgia Supreme Court’s rule mirrors a similar model rule promulgated during the American Bar Association’s Washington convention in August, as part of its study of multidisciplinary practice. “The ABA is encouraging the states to do this,” Askew said. The new rule also gives the Georgia Bar a greater measure of control over lawyers who handle matters in state on a temporary basis, Askew said. “Any lawyer who comes into Georgia to handle a matter is not subject to our disciplinary procedures,” he said. Under the new rule these lawyers will be subject to this state’s disciplinary process, Askew said. ‘COMITY’ RULE The order applies, however, only to those states that extend the same courtesy to Georgia lawyers. Lawyers admitted to practice here under the rule must have been admitted to practice in a state that has a “comity” rule. Lawyers from jurisdictions that don’t recognize members of the Georgia Bar won’t be recognized by the bar in Georgia. About 30 states qualify for such reciprocity, Askew said. Among Georgia’s neighbors, Tennessee and North Carolina qualify. However, the state’s companions in the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Alabama and Florida, still will have to take the Georgia Bar exam because they don’t have comity agreements with Georgia. Other states not participating in the rule include California, Illinois and New York. And the process isn’t automatic. Simply holding a license to practice in another state with a comity agreement doesn’t guarantee admission to practice in Georgia. “[Lawyers from other states] are still going to be subject to review, as everyone is,” Askew said. Among those standards are a law degree from an ABA-accredited law school, good professional standing in the lawyer’s home state and a clean record. REQUIRES FIVE YEARS PRACTICE The new rule also requires applicants never to have failed the Georgia bar exam, to have been practicing law for at least five out of the past seven years, and to receive a certification of fitness to practice law from the Board to Determine Fitness of Bar Applicants. The board may review applicants’ criminal and financial records before certifying their fitness, a procedure also followed for those taking the bar exam. The board, operating since 1978, consists of nine people — six lawyers and three others — appointed by the supreme court. The process of gaining admission to practice in Georgia will remain fundamentally the same, Askew said. Candidates must establish their legal competence and “demonstrate that you’re ethical, and fit to join the bar,” Askew said. Applicants also must pay an $800 fee. Bar exam applicants pay $75. Once they are certified, the lawyers then must apply to the Board of Bar Examiners and request admission on motion without examination. That petition must include a $500 fee, in addition to the $800 fee, and a statement that the applicant wishes to practice law in Georgia. This procedure simply sets out an alternate way for lawyers to establish their competence to practice law in a new home jurisdiction, Askew said. The order recognizes that actual law practice is as good an indicator of competence to practice as passing an exam. “Even though it would cost them about $400 more [than the price of taking the bar exam], for most lawyers I think it’s the preferable option,” Askew said.

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