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Practicing immigration law in a state you’re not admitted

Asking for a friend (seriously). She’s barred in PA and is waka02/20/19
In case this applies, PA and NY have reciprocity, so if your lazlo02/21/19
She can practice immigration law. Removal defense and petiti superttthero02/20/19
Super3T has it. I practice immigration all over the country, dieter02/21/19
Out of curiosity (and since OP seems to have gotten really s wutwutwut02/21/19
Social Security Disability and Veteran's Disability Claims. jd4hire02/21/19
Hi jd4hire. Could you pls. advise what steps (or website catwoman33302/26/19
I think you can practice bankruptcy without being locally ad dieter02/21/19
This would be difficult since you would be filling in distri waka02/21/19
I'm pretty sure you can practice IP from any state if you're ipesq02/21/19
There are none. I'm barred in NY & NJ and have practiced Imm isthisit02/21/19
Be careful here. Most lawyers who think they absolutely can onehell02/26/19
several states have definitely said this is OK. +++++++++ catwoman33302/26/19
I don't have such a list, but the place to start would be to onehell02/27/19
As long as OP's friend only represents clients in immigratio lazlo02/26/19
Again, not necessarily. Some states say that if you set up a onehell02/27/19
"Sperry v. Florida made this unlawful for bars to require of wutwutwut02/27/19
I think this is right. If you read the Sperry opinion, which onehell02/27/19
waka (Feb 20, 2019 - 6:58 pm)

Asking for a friend (seriously). She’s barred in PA and is moving to NY—and doesn’t want to take another bar exam.
What are her limitations if she only wants to practice immigration law?

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lazlo (Feb 21, 2019 - 12:05 pm)

In case this applies, PA and NY have reciprocity, so if your friend meets the qualifications (5 years continuous practice of law IIRC), she should be able to become barred in NY.

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superttthero (Feb 20, 2019 - 7:57 pm)

She can practice immigration law. Removal defense and petitions.

I know that's broad, but it really just about covers it. There are some areas that deal with both, and then she can do the immigration part and will have to hire someone to the other part. For example, if she's defending someone from deportation and feels that there were errors made by the Judge in the criminal conviction that serves as grounds for removal, she'll have to contract or refer a criminal law attorney to get the conviction vacated (if possible). Then she can take that order to vacate to immigration court to win her immigration case.

Many immigration attorneys all over the country practice in other states and do purely immigration. It is extremely common. Only being barred in another state has not been a barrier to tons of successful immigration attorneys. There are gray areas about what is or isn't immigration, but not a ton. It is true though that some things other immigration attorneys sometimes do, in criminal or family court, she wont be able to.

Edit - States have tried to restrict this and been smacked down under Sperry and other cases. You're generally also in the clear to open an office and hold yourself out as an attorney but there *may* be restrictions on marketing materials to say something like "Practicing only in immigration" or "Not licensed in STATEX." I have no clue what, if any, quirks like that exist specifically in NY.

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dieter (Feb 21, 2019 - 9:27 am)

Super3T has it. I practice immigration all over the country, and am only licensed in one jurisdiction (MN). If you're doing removal defense, there will be intersections with state law, particularly criminal and family. For those issues, you'll need local co-counsel. Anything before EOIR or USCIS though, you're fine with any admission. Check the local rules regarding marketing. I err on the side of caution, and have "Practice limited to immigration and nationality law" printed on my business cards.

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wutwutwut (Feb 21, 2019 - 10:13 am)

Out of curiosity (and since OP seems to have gotten really solid answers already) - are there other areas of law where there is such an easily verifiable divide between federal-only practice and state practice?

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jd4hire (Feb 21, 2019 - 10:39 am)

Social Security Disability and Veteran's Disability Claims. That changes, I believe, if you have to file in District Court, but you could get pro hac'd in.

I also believe there is also the National Vaccine Injury Claims Compensation program. If you handle a few of those, you can get on the list and the gov refers you clients to prosecute their claims through the program.

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catwoman333 (Feb 26, 2019 - 6:18 pm)

Hi jd4hire.

Could you pls. advise what steps (or website links) needed to get on the gov list for client referrals for the NVICC program? I SS and Vets, but would like to expand a bit to also handle vaccine injury claims. Also, what is the standard atty fee for these cases? I assume its just a matter of gathering, submitting the documentation and not much litigation? Thanks!

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dieter (Feb 21, 2019 - 10:46 am)

I think you can practice bankruptcy without being locally admitted.

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waka (Feb 21, 2019 - 11:25 am)

This would be difficult since you would be filling in district court and many district courts require admission to the bar in the state where the district court sits.

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ipesq (Feb 21, 2019 - 11:32 am)

I'm pretty sure you can practice IP from any state if you're not litigating in federal court. That is you can practice in front of the uspto with regards to filing trademark and patent apps

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isthisit (Feb 21, 2019 - 11:41 am)

There are none. I'm barred in NY & NJ and have practiced Immigration law (CIS interviews & Imm Court) in MO, PA, UT, FL, as well as NY & NJ with no issue.

Immigration is federal law and so long as you're barred in one U.S. state you can practice in any state.

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onehell (Feb 26, 2019 - 5:24 pm)

Be careful here. Most lawyers who think they absolutely can set up an immigration-only shop anywhere they want rely on Sperry v. Florida, but that was about a nonattorney admitted to the patent bar and some states may find it distinguishable, because immigration law often intertwines with state law issues and because setting up shop for the purpose of practicing law is not the same thing as representing an out-of-state client from your office in a state where you are licensed, and because being a lawyer in another state is not necessarily the same thing as someone who isn't a lawyer anywhere who is authorized to represent others because of some special rule like Sperry found with patents.

https://open.mitchellhamline.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=&httpsredir=1&article=1273&context=wmlr

Don't get me wrong, several states have definitely said this is OK. But not all of them, and one should definitely check local ethics opinions before hanging a shingle in a state where they're not licensed. The ABA did adopt an amendment to MR 5.5 to allow practice "when authorized by a federal rule or other law" but even that leaves some room for interpretation (e.g. because most of these federal rules do not explicitly purport to preempt state practice of law rules) and not all states have adopted it anyway.

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catwoman333 (Feb 26, 2019 - 6:26 pm)

several states have definitely said this is OK.

+++++++++++++++
Onehell, could you pls. share a list of these states? Thanks.

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onehell (Feb 27, 2019 - 11:01 am)

I don't have such a list, but the place to start would be to see if your state (or whatever state you're interested in) has adopted the ABA's language in ER5.5 about being allowed to practice in the state if licensed somewhere else and "authorized by law or federal rule." If the state has adopted this language, then check the state's ethics opinions to make sure they view immigration as being included within that provision. If nothing comes up on-point, then call the bar and ask.

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lazlo (Feb 26, 2019 - 9:49 pm)

As long as OP's friend only represents clients in immigration court (which is not an Article III court), that should be ok everywhere, right?

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onehell (Feb 27, 2019 - 2:16 pm)

Again, not necessarily. Some states say that if you set up a continuous, ongoing presence in a jurisdiction for the purpose of practicing law, then you have to be licensed regardless of the fact that the venue you happen to be practicing in would not require same. Sperry v. Florida made this unlawful for bars to require of nonattorneys who are allowed to practice in patent cases, but that's not as on-point for lawyers licensed in another state doing immigration or some other federal thing as a lot of people think.

As to the article III thing, practicing in an administrative forum is definitely practicing law. It's just that not all practice of law by nonattorneys or attorneys licensed elsewhere is UNLICENSED practice of law. But different states draw different lines, and Sperry was more limited to its specific facts than a lot of people sometimes think.

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wutwutwut (Feb 27, 2019 - 4:56 pm)

"Sperry v. Florida made this unlawful for bars to require of nonattorneys who are allowed to practice in patent cases"


Interesting. So I wonder if an attorney barred in State A could move to Florida or another state and hang a shingle *as a patent agent* and practice patent work only, without fear of molestation by the new state's bar. I would assume the attorney would need to have zero mention on his website or other materials pointing to being an attorney.

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onehell (Feb 27, 2019 - 5:25 pm)

I think this is right. If you read the Sperry opinion, which dates from the 60s, they go into a lot of detail about the specific legislative and administrative history behind the decision the feds made to authorize non-attorneys to practice patent law and to create a registration process specifically intended to avoid the problem of non-attorneys acting unethically by virtue of simply not being subject to attorney ethics rules.

So I think it could be read as a narrow decision confined to patents and arguably distinguishable for immigration. But within the context of patents I suspect the bar would be hard-pressed to distinguish Sperry just because the person happens to have a law license somewhere else.

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