Can a US Attorney Practice in Any US State?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 07 October 2019
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As part of the protections built within our judicial system, attorneys are required to be recognized members of a local bar association as well as be recognized by the courts. Does this preclude any US attorney from being about to practice law outside of his or her local jurisdiction? Actually, it does not. Here are some examples of ways that any US attorney can comply with local requirements and practice law anywhere in the United States.

Local courts of jurisdiction are responsible for setting the qualifications of who may be allowed to engage in law practice within the geographic area that court oversees. Usually, if a US attorney wishes to plead cases in another court within the same state, the process is a very simple one. Many courts will recognize the attorney based on a letter of confirmation from the sister court regarding the good standing of the US attorney. Others may not require the letter of confirmation, but will expect the lawyer to present a certificate that serves as evidence that he or she is a recognized attorney by another court within the state.


For any US attorney that wishes to practice law outside of his or her home state of jurisdiction, the process becomes a little more complicated. Most courts will require the certificate or a letter confirming the status of the US attorney. Along with that evidence, an affidavit from a locally recognized attorney may be needed, as well as taking a formal oath of admission to the court. Some courts will allow what is called Pro Hac Vice admission, which simply means the attorney presents sufficient information to allow the court to confirm his or her status, and allows the US attorney to function within the jurisdiction of the court. Often, the Pro Hac Vice is invoked in emergency situations and may be revoked by the court at a later date. It usually does not confer a permanent status to be recognized by the court.

The situation is different for United States attorneys that are full time government attorneys. Any United States attorney in the employ of the federal government or any federal agency will have credential affirming his or her status. Presenting them to a local judge is all that is necessary to grant full access to any matter that may impact the interests of the federal government. This process was designed to curtail any set of circumstances where the legal system could be used to manipulate the government for personal gain, or to place the central government of the country into any situation where the security of the country would be placed in jeopardy.

For any US attorney wishing to practice in another jurisdiction, there are criteria to meet. A federal US attorney enjoys the simplest means of securing recognition by a local court. While the recognition process may seem a bit complicated or unnecessary to some people, it is important to remember that the process ensures that the attorneys who represent people in court have the basic skills needed to competently represent his of her client. By instituting this structure of checks and balances, it is a safe bet that any citizen of the United States will be able to receive professional counsel from any attorney recognized by any US attorney who meets those qualifications.


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Can a full-time government attorney represent a private citizen in non-government related cases?

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