ED000047When an attorney is requested to act as “local counsel” by an out-of-state attorney in a new lawsuit, the practical needs of the out-of-state client can be at odds with rules of professional responsibility and local rules that can sometimes expand the duties and responsibilities of local counsel. The client is already paying a lead counsel whom it knows and trusts, and is then asked to retain and pay local counsel as well. Surely, the client is looking to avoid duplication of effort and being charged twice the amount of attorneys’ fees. One court recognized this tension and found that local counsel’s role can appropriately be limited to save expense to the client.
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lawyer-research115737056TSWhen an attorney is requested to act as “local counsel” by an out-of-state attorney in a new lawsuit, the local counsel may have additional duties that flow from Rules of Civil Procedure or Local Rules that govern lead counsel’s admission pro hac vice. For instance, Alaska R. Civ. P. 81(a)(3) states that “local counsel shall be primarily responsible to the court for the conduct of all stages of the proceedings, and their authority shall be superior to that of attorneys permitted to appear [pro hac vice].”
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Accounting gavel_TS_105865310Occasionally, attorneys may get a call from an out-of-state attorney requesting them to serve as “local counsel” in a new lawsuit in their home town. Lead counsel explains, “Yeah, I just need you to file some papers, let me use your office for depositions once in a while, and tell me what the judge is like. I might even need you to attend a discovery hearing if need be.”

It sounds like a tempting opportunity to bring in new work and maybe get some easy billable time without a substantial increase in workload. But when one accepts the responsibility of being “local counsel,” traps await that may result in professional liabilities in surprising and unexpected ways.


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