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In-house counsel in New Jersey can hold limited or plenary licenses to practice law in that state

A hullabaloo has erupted this past year about general counsel who are not licensed to practice law in the state where they have an office. This blog has ignored that cause célébre. Even so, being a lawyer in New Jersey, it caught my eye when Met. Corp. Counsel, Vol. 15, Dec. 2007 at 47, explains that New Jersey in-house lawyers come in two flavors. Those with “plenary” licenses have passed the state’s bar exam and otherwise filled its requirements to be admitted to practice in that state.

The other flavor, those lawyers with “limited” licenses, are “for counsel who provide their legal services solely to their employers.” Employed lawyers presumably means corporate lawyers. For limited licensees, “basic competency and other factors of bar membership are governed by the home jurisdiction.” For those who manage law departments, it would be a good idea to understand the bar admission obligations – and limitations – of their department’s lawyers.

The article is fundamentally about whether in-house New Jersey lawyers should be held to the same standards of mandatory continuing legal education (MCLE) as external counsel in that state. New Jersey is considering whether it should require MCLE. Obviously, if lawyers of law departments are required to comply, costs will rise and productivity will fall, unless the CLE is highly specialized and pertinent (See my post of Jan. 20, 2006 on the wastefulness of most CLE courses for in-house lawyers; May. 24, 2007 for three other references; June 9, 2007 for other thoughts on the distribution of training; and June 30, 2007 for the evaporation of knowledge gained formally.). For more information on this topic, get in touch with Phil Crowley, a lawyer with Johnson & Johnson.

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