California House Counsel are governed by Title III, Division 3, Chapter 1, Article 2 as well as Rule 9.46. This rule enables attorneys who are not licensed in the state of California to practice in California as house counsel. There are certain requirements to be eligible under this rule, but it is important to note there is not set limit on the number of years an attorney can register as a California house counsel. To be eligible as a California house counsel an out-of-state attorney have to:
- Possess a juris doctorate degree from a law school approved by the ABA
- Be members in good standing of any bar where they are considered a member
- All CLE requirements must be met in the bars where the attorney is currently a member
- Complete an application
- Certify they have read the California Code of Professional Conduct
- Pay the application fee as well as any dues that are paid by the active members of the California bar.
- Certification from their employer to the California bar that the attorney will be acting or is employed as in house counsel full-time
- Become a resident of California
House Counsel Practice
To satisfy the above rule attorneys must be employed as an in house counsel for an association/company, whether that is for profit or non-profit organization is immaterial as long as the actual practice of the company is not itself for legal services. As an in house counsel, the attorneys who are admitted under the aforementioned rule, receive all the benefits of actual members of the California bar. This also includes being responsible for any disciplinary issues as well. They do not have the ability to be involved in any activities that require California Pro Hac Vice Admission, unless the state of California approves it or it is for pro bono services. Basically, California house counsel cannot give legal services to any individual or entity other than their employer, or their fellow coworkers, except if that entity is a legal organization or for pro bono services.
California house counsel also have the following restrictions:
- California house counsel cannot provide personal or individual representation out of the company's interest to any individuals involved with the company they are working for. This includes employees, shareholders, partners, executives.
- California house counsel must maintain an address California
- California house counsel can also not indicate that they are an attorney that can practice law in the public.
- All business cards of the California house counsel must show that the house counsel is certified to practice in only as a in house counsel
Qualifying In House Counsel Entity
A “qualifying in house counsel entities” is any organization that is registered with the state of California. The institution must have at least 10 employees on its bank roll full-time and must employ at least one other attorney who is in good standing of the California Bar. These entities must also report to the California Bar any hiring or firing of in house counsel within 30 days of the action.
Reporting to the California Bar
House counsel's are required to report to the California Bar any changes in their bar membership status or employment. They must also report any sanctions that are being brought against them. This is all required to be submitted to the bar within 30 days. If an attorney is disbarred in any jurisdiction where they are a member their ability to practice as an in house counsel is also revoked in California. Their ability to practice will also be revoked if they are no longer employed by the same company they were issued admittance with. Failure to comply with reporting to the California bar or certificate renewal as described in the following segment will be suspended. Suspension is taken seriously in California and is effective upon physical delivery or ten days from the date of receipt.
In house counsel must renew their registration certificate as well as pay all dues and renewal fees each year. If in house counsel obtains employment at another organization they also must amend their registration certificate. Failure to renew will force the California house counsel to pay an additional late fee.
The renewal must include the following
- The attorney is still in good standing in all the jurisdictions where they are admitted to practice law
- The attorney is employed by the same employer
- The attorney has complied with the CLE requirements under California bar rules
- All fees have been paid