New Rules Proposed For Sharing Attorney Information, Noting Suspensions and Corporate Counsel Status
The Ohio Supreme Court is considering changes to rules governing attorney registration including allowing corporate attorneys to provide pro bono legal service.
A series of changes to Attorney Registration is proposed as amendments to Rule VI of the Rules for the Government of the Bar of Ohio. Today begins a 30-day public comment period on the proposed amendments.
One of the proposed amendments would expand the scope of practice for corporate attorneys to permit them to provide pro bono legal services through a qualified legal aid organization. The Ohio State Bar Association is also proposing a change to Rule 5.5 of the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct to make the Attorney Registration and Professional Conduct Rules consistent.
Proposed rule changes include:
- Access and Use of Attorney Registration Information.
Under the current rule, information obtained by the Office of Attorney Services is public record except for an attorney’s residence phone number, email address and social security number. An attorney’s residence address is exempt from public record if a valid office address is provided.
The proposed rule clarifies that the email address provided by the attorney can be shared with and used by other offices of the Supreme Court “to advise attorneys of matters related to the practice of law.”
- Registration Designation for Suspended Attorneys
A new registration status is recommended for attorneys who have been suspended from the practice of law. The amendment proposes that the Office of Attorney Services designate a suspended attorney’s registration status as “suspended.” This new status is intended to reduce confusion as to whether an attorney registered for “active” status may continue to practice after being suspended from the practice of law. The designation would be lifted upon the attorney’s reinstatement to the practice of law.
- Corporate Counsel Eligibility
The new rule would permit attorneys admitted to practice law in “a United States territory” to be eligible to apply for corporate registration status. Currently the rule limits corporate registration status to attorneys admitted in at least one other state or the District of Columbia, but does not include U.S. territories such as Puerto Rico.
- Corporate Counsel Registration Requirements
Five provisions are proposed to clarify and verify corporate counsel status.
- Under the proposed rule, corporate counsel status is reserved for those attorneys whose employer’s business must be lawful and consist of “activities other than the practice of law or the provision of legal services.” This is to clarify that an out-of-state attorney who may be employed by an Ohio law firm may not seek registration for corporate counsel status.
- An attorney seeking corporate status must provide a certificate of good standing in all jurisdictions in which the attorney is admitted. The current rule requires a certificate from the jurisdiction in which the attorney is admitted, but it does not specifically require that the attorney submit a certificate from all jurisdictions in which an attorney may have been admitted. The amendments would also require that an attorney demonstrate that the attorney is on active status in at least one other jurisdiction.
- To independently verify an attorney’s corporate status, the proposed rule requires the attorney submit an affidavit from the employing entity attesting to the attorney’s employment, date of commencement of employment and capacity in which the attorney is employed.
- The proposed amendment places in the corporate counsel section the obligation of corporate status attorneys to register biennially and comply with continuing legal education requirements similar to active attorneys. This is not a new requirement, but the current obligations are scattered throughout parts of the Rules of the Government of the Bar. The amendment also establishes that corporate attorneys are subject to all rules and requirements related to the practice of law in Ohio, including the Rules of Professional Conduct.
- The amendments state that corporate status attorneys may perform legal services for “the employing entity or its organizational affiliates; including entities that control, are controlled by, or are under common control with the employer; and for employees, officers, and directors of such entities, but only on matters directly related to the attorney’s work for the entity.”
- Corporate Counsel Termination
The amendments propose that a corporate attorney must notify the Office of Attorney Services within 10 days of certain events including termination of the attorney’s employment that was the basis for corporate registration, a change in status in another jurisdiction, or the imposition of discipline against the attorney.
The proposed rule clarifies that corporate registration is automatically terminated upon the occurrence of certain events, including termination of employment or the admission to practice of law in Ohio. Corporate registration would also be terminated if the attorney is no longer registered for active status in at least one state, the District of Columbia, or a U.S. territory, or if the attorney is not in good standing, suspended or disbarred in a jurisdiction in which the attorney is admitted to practice law.
- Corporate Counsel Pro Bono Eligibility
Currently, corporate status attorneys may provide legal services only to their employer and cannot appear before an Ohio tribunal on behalf of anyone except their employer or themselves unless permitted to do so by the tribunal.
As proposed by the Ohio State Bar Association, corporate attorneys can provide pro bono legal services to persons of limited means or a charitable organization if the legal services are assigned by the entities enumerated in the rule.
To acknowledge this change in practice, the amendments propose to modify Rule 5.5 of the Rules of Professional Conduct, regarding the unauthorized practice of law, to note that corporate attorneys may provide pro bono legal services.
Comments will be accepted until January 21, 2015 and should be submitted in writing to:
Susan Christoff, director, Attorney Services
Supreme Court of Ohio
65 South Front Street, 5th Floor
Columbus, Ohio 43215-3431
Please include your full name and mailing address in any comments submitted by email.
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