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Oct. 17, 2011
Advisory Opinion Answers Multijurisdictional Practice Question

Out-of-state debt settlement lawyers are not authorized to provide legal services on a temporary basis to Ohio clients, according to a Supreme Court of Ohio Board of Commissioners on Grievances & Discipline advisory opinion.

It is the first time the board has addressed Professional Conduct Rule 5.5 (Unauthorized practice of law; multijurisdictional practice of law), which took effect in 2007.

Section (c) of the rule contains “safe harbors” that permit an out-of-state lawyer to provide legal services in Ohio temporarily.

Opinion 2011-2 applies the “reasonable relationship” factors found in the comments to Rule 5.5. The board concluded that allowing the multijurisdictional practice at issue would not serve the interests of clients and public when the “matters are not connected to the lawyers’ home state of admission, there is not a pre-existing relationship between the lawyers and the Ohio clients, and the lawyers do not have a recognized expertise in a particular body of federal, nationally-uniform, foreign, or international law that is applicable to the consumer debt matters.”

A copy of the opinion is available at: http://www.supremecourt.ohio.gov/Boards/BOC/Advisory_Opinions/2011/Op_11-002.pdf.

Advisory Opinions of the Board of Commissioners on Grievances & Discipline are informal, nonbinding opinions in response to prospective or hypothetical questions regarding the application of the Supreme Court Rules for the Government of the Bar of Ohio, the Supreme Court Rules for the Government of the Judiciary, the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct, the Ohio Code of Judicial Conduct, and the Attorney’s Oath of Office.

Contact: Michelle Hall at 614.387.9370 or Chris Davey at 614.387.9250.