The Process of Pro Hac Vice

October 31, 2023
Joseph Kennedy

How can an out-of-state attorney help with your case?

Every state in the US has its own legal bar exam that attorneys must pass to practice law. Typically, an attorney is only allowed to practice law in the jurisdiction of where they have passed the bar exam. However, in an increasingly mobile world, it has become necessary for different states to make exceptions, allowing attorneys to practice law in areas outside of their bar’s jurisdiction.  

Uniform Bar Exam

One of these exceptions is the Uniform Bar Exam. 39 states as well as the District of Columbia and the US Virgin Islands each accept a standardized bar. Each state still has the flexibility to require a higher or lower score, but having a bar that applies to multiple locations has significantly improved the mobility of attorneys as they seek legal work. However, there are often several other state specific requirements for an attorney to practice, even in another jurisdiction that accepts the UBE. These can include character and fitness requirements, tests regarding a jurisdiction’s codes, time limits, and large admission fees. For this reason, most attorneys prefer either only representing individuals and organizations in the states they are already certified to practice in, or to seek another alternative to help clients out of state.  

Pro Hac Vice

This Latin term literally means “for this occasion only.” A lawyer can make a motion for a request for pro hac vice to temporarily assist a client in a different jurisdiction. This motion is extremely helpful for individuals and businesses who regularly work with a lawyer, but occasionally need legal help in a state where their usual attorney is not bar certified.  

The requirements for pro hac vice vary slightly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but typically have some commonalities. It is standard procedure for a court to require that an out of state attorney appearing pro hac vice consult with an attorney within the jurisdiction regarding the case details and local rules. Depending on the location, the in-state attorney can also simply perform a supervisory role for the out of state attorney.

There is also usually a fee that must be paid and a limit to the number of times an attorney can appear in each state within a given amount of time. After all, courts want attorneys to become licensed in states where they practice frequently rather than always appearing pro hac vice. At Sumsion Business Law, we have several attorneys, making it possible for us to represent clients in different states very easily despite appearance limits in different jurisdictions

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