Since the 1990s, Attorney Kenneth M. Phillips has been involved in dog bite cases throughout the United States. He does this by teaming up with lawyers where the case would be tried if there were no settlement. This does not cost the client anything more than having just one lawyer because the attorneys split the fee agreed to by the client, pursuant to the law of the state where the accident happened. If they don’t win, they don’t get paid.
The local lawyer often brings a motion to have Phillips admitted to practice before the court in the state where the accident occurred. This is called “pro haec vice” admission. After Phillips is admitted, he prosecutes the lawsuit in that state like any other attorney would. In all such cases, Phillips, the client, and the local attorney enter into written agreements which —
- Describe the rights and obligations of each of them, including how both attorneys will be paid;
- Specify how Phillips and the local attorney will divide the work and responsibilities; and,
- Confirm that the client will not have to pay an extra fee because of the local lawyer.
Courts throughout the USA permit attorneys to practice law in this manner. The general rule is as follows: “Activities in contemplation of [pro haec vice] admission [to practice law in a state outside the state in which an attorney is licensed] are also authorized, such as investigating facts or consulting with the client within the jurisdiction prior to drafting a complaint and filing the action.” Restatement of the Law Third, The Law Governing Lawyers, section 3, comment (e), p. 27.
Similarly, Rule 5.5 of the ABA Model Rules permits a lawyer from any state to practice law in any other state if the lawyer’s activities pertain to a matter that may end up in court or already is in court. Dog bite cases fit that description. Some states require registration and payment of a fee, such as Connecticut. Some, such as Texas, have no black letter rule but instead have a custom of permitting qualified attorneys to engage in dispute resolution proceedings.
Because Phillips lives in California, has his offices only in California, and is a member of only the California State Bar Association, he handles cases outside California in a manner that meticulously complies with the law, whether it be Rule 5.5 or the particular state’s rules. See State Implementation of ABA MJP Policies for a comprehensive summary of the states’ positions on Rule 5.5. Also see Multi-State Practice of Law.