MA High Court Counts Lawyer’s Contract Work toward Bar Admission

MA Supreme Judiciary Court ruling

News From appellateU |MA Bar Admission Ruling

On May 10, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court concluded that an attorney who contracted for a law firm outside his state of bar admission could count that work toward Massachusetts’ 5 year minimum “active practice” requirement in his effort to gain admission on motion there.

In Schomer v. Board of Bar Examiners, attorney Jesse Daniel Schomer represented his case for membership to the bar before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC), which holds exclusive jurisdiction over matters concerning state bar admittance.

The Board of Examiners had rejected the attorney’s application because Schomer’s active practice experience included nearly 41 months as a full-time contract attorney for a New York law firm. Schomer was only licensed to practice in New Jersey during this time.

Whereas the Examiners went so far as to characterize the temporary work in New York as “illegal,” the SJC panel unanimously disagreed, mainly because the NY Bar had in fact admitted Schomer in October of 2009 after he sat for and passed the State’s bar exam.

If It’s Good Enough for the Goose …

In a slip opinion posted by Westlaw, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court reversed the bar examiners’ denial of attorney Schomer’s petition for admission on motion, and remanded the matter to the Board for further consideration consistent with its ruling.

After puzzling over why the Board of Examiners failed to first check with New York examiners in order to clarify attorney Schomer’s temporary legal work there, Judge Spina, who wrote the decision, also noted that:

This case highlights the legal and ethical complexities surrounding the multijurisdictional practice of law by lawyers who may not be licensed in every state where they need to work […]

In its decision, the Court made clear that it does not adopt the Board’s advisory interpreting the “active practice of law” requirement under admission rules as having to occur in the same jurisdiction where the attorney is admitted to practice in order to count toward satisfying the requirement.

 

 

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