License to Drive, License to Practice

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My son got his driver’s license the other day (not Bart Simpson, the older one).  While he waits for a brand new Mustang to magically appear in the driveway, he’s been studying New York’s laws about what he can and cannot do with a junior license:  no highway driving; no driving past 9 pm without an adult; no driving with two or more non-family member passengers.  And those are only the state rules; he’s had to familiarize himself with the parental laws as well:  no refusing to pick siblings up from their respective activities; no driving above 20 mph (ever); no changing the pre-set radio stations.   (Note:  no texting while driving is also very much a parental rule — as well as a Firm policy — but one about which I don’t joke.)

Lawyers likewise would be well-served spending some time reviewing the licensing requirements that govern their practices.  In this frequent flier economy, lawyers sometimes cross state borders without considering the implications of practicing in a jurisdiction in which they are not admitted.  And state bar regulators are taking note — an increasing number of lawyers are being disciplined for engaging in the practice of law without being licensed in the jurisdiction in which they practice.  Some states have set up special committees tasked with monitoring lawyers and law firms to ensure that lawyers who practice in their states are not improperly holding themselves out (explicitly or implicitly) as being admitted to practice.  Some even troll law firm websites looking for violators.

Nor is it a matter of just being licensed in the state in which you sit.  A California lawyer was recently disciplined after he was found to have violated the unauthorized practice rules of other states by implicitly holding himself out as being admitted to practice in those states, even though he never left California.

And what’s a really easy way to get snagged for UPL?  Failing to renew your registration.  That too can have some real world consequences, including suspension. 

So like my son (who’s still waiting for that Mustang), take some time to ensure that you are complying with your licensing requirements.  And while my son’s studying no doubt has paid off, like the cautious parents that we are, we asked some of our friendly local law enforcement officials to keep an eye out for him on his first solo drive.  We’re so proud.