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Slowly and with deliberate exceptions, Pennsylvania is becoming friendlier territory for foreign attorneys wanting to practice within its borders. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court authorized a licensing process Thursday for “foreign legal consultants” who would be permitted to advise clients in Pennsylvania on the law of their home countries. The foreign legal consultants may not practice Pennsylvania or federal law unless they’ve taken the steps required for bar admission in Pennsylvania — requirements that include completing 30 credits of accredited law courses. Until then, foreign lawyers are still permitted to provide limited legal services in Pennsylvania on a “temporary basis” under the state’s multijurisdictional practice rule, which was adopted last year and applies to all out-of-state attorneys. “We’re glad this is happening because it does promote an internationalism about the way we practice law and about the kinds of transactions we can do in Pennsylvania,” said Andrew Chirls, chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association. The adoption of last week’s new rules added yet another to the growing list of limited law licenses available in Pennsylvania authorizing outside attorneys to practice law there n a restricted manner without breaking state bar admission rules. In the last year, the court has added limited law licenses for in-house corporate counsel who work for corporations in Pennsylvania and for military lawyers who represent certain military personnel before the courts. And under Pennsylvania’s multijurisdictional practice rule, out-of-state lawyers who aren’t licensed to practice in Pennsylvania can practice in the state on a “temporary basis.” “Lawyers bring business,” said Mark Dows, executive director of the state’s Board of Law Examiners, which drafted and recommended the rules to the court. “Businesses come here when they can be represented.” Still, Dows doesn’t anticipate the board receiving too many applications from prospective foreign legal consultants. “I would be surprised if we had more than a dozen apply a year,” he said. As adopted by the Pennsylvania high court, Rule 342 departs from the American Bar Association’s model rule for the licensing of legal consultants. The ABA rule permits a consultant to render legal advice on Pennsylvania or federal law only if it’s given on the basis of advice from a lawyer who is qualified to render such counsel. Pennsylvania’s rule does not permit the advice whatsoever. “The board thought it would be better if a Pennsylvania attorney was present,” Dows said. The ABA crafted its model rule for foreign legal consultants 12 years ago in response to foreign lawyers’ concerns that American attorneys had a broad right of practice in their countries but foreign lawyers generally couldn’t practice in the states. This was the case even when a foreign lawyer sought only to advise on the law of his or her own country. In many states, including Pennsylvania, foreign lawyers wanting to practice had to attend an accredited American law school, sit for the bar exam and become a full member of the state bar. Proponents of limited law licenses for foreign legal consultants — such as the U.S. trade representative and the ABA — say the rules are needed to regulate the practice of foreign lawyers who are nonetheless active in international trade and business. The federal government would like to say it will allow foreign legal consultants as a concession in negotiations aimed at liberalizing trade in services, as required by the General Agreement on Trade in Services — a treaty on the agenda of the World Trade Organization’s meeting scheduled to take place in May. But when the new rules take effect Sept. 1, Pennsylvania will join 24 other states that have opened their doors to foreign lawyers — among them New York (in 1974) and New Jersey (in 1989). There’s concern that foreign countries may retaliate if more states don’t start letting in foreign lawyers. Pennsylvania’s Rule 341(d) anticipates such a situation. It gives the Board of Law Examiners, which is charged with certifying foreign legal consultants, the discretion to consider whether an applicant’s home country has denied a Pennsylvania lawyer’s attempt to set up an office there. “The board wanted that leverage to say, ‘If Pennsylvania lawyers can’t do it there, we’re not going to allow you to do it here,’” Dows said. Foreign legal consultants will be beholden to all the ethical and disciplinary obligations created by the state rules of professional conduct and rules of disciplinary enforcement. They are subject to the disciplinary authority of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, but do not have to fulfill continuing legal education requirements. Philadelphia attorney Abraham C. Reich said the new rules will offer Pennsylvania law firms the chance to acquire expertise that they would not otherwise have. Some firms are already making informal arrangements to have foreign lawyers practice in their Pennsylvania offices, noted Reich, co-chairman of Fox Rothschild. “Now at least this offers some public protection with the license requirement,” he said. “And for us, we can turn to foreign lawyers if we want to do business in foreign countries.” Peter Tucci, co-chair of the Philadelphia Bar’s international law committee, said the rules will help Philadelphia compete with New York for international business. “As far as I know, there is not one foreign law firm that has a law office in the state of Pennsylvania,” said Tucci, an attorney at DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary. Tucci’s hoping to convince the Pennsylvania Board of Law Examiners to accept another proposal that would make Pennsylvania even more attractive to foreign lawyers — reducing the number of law-course credit hours required of foreign attorneys before they can sit for the bar exam. Pennsylvania loses many foreign graduates of its law school LL.M programs to jurisdictions such as New York, California and Washington, D.C., where foreign lawyers with an LL.M or another advanced law degree can sit for the bar exam without going back to law school for 30 credits. Most of the foreign LL.M students at Temple University’s Beasley School of Law either return to their native country or sit for the New York Bar exam, said Dean Robert Reinstein. Few stay in Pennsylvania without attempting to acquire a juris doctor degree, he said. “I would think that a number of our students might now find Philadelphia to be an attractive alternative,” Reinstein said of the rule change. “They have developed contacts here and are familiar with the area. I think it might be a little less important now to get [the right for LL.M graduates to sit for the Pennsylvania] bar exam. But that’s still important. It’s good to see this developing one step at a time.” One Temple graduate, Maxim Volchenko, earned LL.M degrees in both international law and taxation but his law degree was earned more than a decade ago in his native Russia. Volchenko is now a visiting foreign attorney at Duane Morris while taking law classes at Rutgers University at Camden, N.J. He said he didn’t think much of the new rules offering limited law licenses for foreign legal consultants. “It’s nice that they relaxed the rules a bit but my position has not changed in that I think if you want to practice law in the states, you should get a J.D. here,” said Volchenko, who plans to build a practice representing Russian companies in the United States. “I don’t think this will … attract more foreign LL.M students looking for positions and large and midsized firms. Nor do I think it will bring in more legal business or business in general to Pennsylvania because the Pennsylvania firms interested in foreign attorneys have already been hiring them.” Jeff Blumenthal and Asher Hawkins of The Legal Intelligencer staff and Leonard Post of ALM contributed to this report.

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