Rule 5.5 (Unauthorized Practice of Law; MJP Practice of Law) and Rule 8.5 (Disciplinary Authority; Choice of Law) of the Minnesota Rules of Professional Conduct encompass the Multijurisdictional Practice Rules (MJP) in Minnesota (not including rules relating to attorneys licensed in foreign countries). For general information about MJP, please see the MJP General page.
Rule 5.5 provides safe harbors for legal practices that out-of-state attorneys may perform in Minnesota without engaging in the unauthorized practice of law. Rule 8.5 recognizes that attorneys practicing in more than one jurisdiction will likely be subject to conflicting admission rules, court rules, or rules of professional conduct. Rule 8.5 attempts to minimize such conflicts and the uncertainty regarding which rules are applicable by establishing the set of rules governing the attorney’s conduct. Attorneys should consult both of the MJP rules, as well as the other Minnesota admission rules and the rules regulating the attorney’s home jurisdiction, in order to avoid the unauthorized practice of law.
Rule 5.5, particularly 5.5(c) and (d), and the applicable comments allow active attorneys licensed in other jurisdictions who regularly practice law, and who are not disbarred or suspended from the practice of law, to practice in Minnesota on a temporary basis. Attorneys must be on active status. (Comment 5).
Minnesota’s MJP Rule 5.5 is not the ABA Model Rule 5.5. The MJP Rule 5.5 exempts Minnesota attorneys from violating the Minnesota Rules of Professional Conduct when the attorney’s conduct in another jurisdiction would comply with MJP Rule 5.5(c) and (d). However, the Minnesota attorney may be subject to discipline in the other jurisdiction. The MJP Rule 5.5 also does not contain a provision for house counsel attorneys.
Rule 5.5 generally prohibits attorneys from practicing law in a jurisdiction in a way that would violate the regulation of the legal profession in that jurisdiction, except that an attorney admitted to practice in Minnesota does not violate the rule by conduct in another jurisdiction that is permitted under Rule 5.5(c) and (d) for attorneys not admitted in Minnesota. Out-of-state attorneys cannot establish an office or other systematic and continuous presence in Minnesota for the practice of law and cannot represent or hold himself of herself out to the public as being admitted to practice in Minnesota.
Comment 4 states that presence may be systematic and continuous even if the attorney is not physically present in Minnesota.
For practice under 5.5(c) (Temporary Practice) or 5.5(d) (Practice Authorized by Law), the following comments apply:
Comment 17 and RPC 8.5(a) subject attorneys to the disciplinary authority of Minnesota.
Comment 18 provides that, in some circumstances, attorneys may have to inform the client that the attorney is not licensed to practice law in Minnesota. An example includes when the representation occurs primarily in Minnesota and requires knowledge of Minnesota law.
Comment 19 does not authorize communications that advertise legal services to prospective clients in Minnesota by attorneys admitted in other jurisdictions.
Comment 6 states that there is no single test to determine whether an attorney’s services are provided on a “temporary basis” in Minnesota. Services may be “temporary” even though the attorney provides services in Minnesota on a recurring basis or for an extended period of time. An example includes when the attorney is representing a client in a single lengthy negotiation or litigation.
The temporary practices include:
Comment 9 states that to the extent that a Minnesota court rule or other law requires an out-of-state attorney to obtain pro hac vice admission before appearing before a tribunal, the attorney must obtain that authority.
Comment 10 provides examples such as meeting with the client, interviewing potential witnesses, and reviewing documents. Similarly, out-of-state attorneys may engage in temporary conduct with pending litigation in another jurisdiction where the attorney reasonably expects to be authorized to appear. This conduct includes taking depositions in Minnesota.
Comment 11 permits conduct for other attorneys who are associated with the attorney but who are not expected to appear. For example, subordinate attorneys may conduct research, review documents, and attend meetings with witnesses.
Comment 12 requires attorneys to obtain pro hac vice admission for court-annexed arbitrations, mediations, or if court rules or law otherwise require.
Comment 14 provides factors for determining when services arise out of or reasonably relate to the attorney’s home jurisdiction practice. The factors include situations where the attorney may have previously represented the client, or the client was a resident in, or has substantial contacts with, the jurisdiction where the attorney is admitted.
The matter, although involving other jurisdictions, may have a significant connection with that jurisdiction. In other cases, significant aspects of the attorney’s work might be conducted in that jurisdiction or a significant aspect of the matter may involve the law of the attorney’s home jurisdiction. The client’s activities or the legal issues may also involve multiple jurisdictions, such as when the officers of a multinational corporation survey potential business sites and seek the services of their attorney in assessing the relative merits of each. In addition, the services may draw on the attorney’s recognized expertise developed through the regular practice of law on behalf of clients in matters involving a particular body of federal, nationally-uniform, foreign, or international law.
Comment 13 states that these services include both legal services and services that non-attorneys may perform but that are considered the practice of law when performed by attorneys.
Comment 14 (above) also applies to (c)(4).
Attorneys may also render services in Minnesota authorized by Minnesota or federal law. (5.5(d)(2)). Practice under this MJP rule exempts attorneys from the prohibition against establishing an office or other systematic and continuous presence in Minnesota.
Comment 16 includes statutes, court rules, executive regulations, or judicial precedents.
Disciplinary Authority. A lawyer admitted to practice in Minnesota is subject to the disciplinary authority of Minnesota, regardless of where the lawyer’s conduct occurs. A lawyer not admitted in Minnesota is also subject to the disciplinary authority of Minnesota if the lawyer provides or offers to provide any legal services in Minnesota. A lawyer may be subject to the disciplinary authority of both Minnesota and another jurisdiction for the same conduct. (8.5(a)).
Comment 1 states that reciprocal enforcement of a jurisdiction’s disciplinary findings and sanctions will further advance the purpose of the rule. See Rules 6 and 22, ABA Model Rules for Lawyer Disciplinary Enforcement. A lawyer who is subject to Minnesota’s disciplinary authority under Rule 8.5(a) is subject to service of process in accordance with Rule 12. The fact that the lawyer is subject to the disciplinary authority of Minnesota may be a factor in determining whether personal jurisdiction may be asserted over the lawyer for civil matters.
Choice of Law. The Minnesota Rules of Professional Conduct are applied as follows:
For conduct in connection with a matter pending before a tribunal, the applicable rules are those of the jurisdiction where the tribunal sits, unless the rules of the tribunal provide otherwise. (8.5(b)(1)).
For any other conduct, the applicable rules are those of the jurisdiction where the lawyer’s conduct occurred, or, if the predominant effect of the conduct is in a different jurisdiction, the rules of that jurisdiction will be applied to the conduct. A lawyer is not subject to discipline if the lawyer’s conduct conforms to the rules of a jurisdiction where the lawyer reasonably believes the predominant effect of the lawyer’s conduct will occur. (8.5(b)(2)).
As discussed above, Comment 2 states that a lawyer may be potentially subject to more than one set of rules of professional conduct and those rules may impose different obligations. The lawyer may be licensed to practice in more than one jurisdiction with differing rules, or may be admitted to practice before a particular court with rules that differ from those of the jurisdiction(s) where the lawyer is licensed. The lawyer’s conduct may also involve significant contacts with more than one jurisdiction.
Comment 3 states that 8.5(b) seeks to resolve the potential conflicts, because minimizing conflicts and uncertainty is in the best interests of the client, profession, and the regulating authorities. The MJP rules take the approach of providing that any particular conduct of a lawyer should be subject to only one set of rules of professional conduct, making the determination of which set of rules applies to a particular conduct as straightforward as possible, and providing protection from discipline for lawyers who act reasonably in the face of uncertainty.
Comment 4 states that all other conduct not pending before a tribunal, including conduct in anticipation of a proceeding not yet pending before a tribunal, subjects the lawyer to (b)(2). For conduct in anticipation of a proceeding that is likely to be before a tribunal, the predominant effect of such conduct could be where the conduct occurred, where the tribunal sits, or in another jurisdiction.
Comment 5 states that when a lawyer’s conduct involves significant contacts with more than one jurisdiction, it may not be clear whether the predominant effect of the lawyer’s conduct will occur in a jurisdiction other than the one where the conduct occurred. So long as the lawyer’s conduct conforms to the rules of a jurisdiction where the lawyer reasonably believes the predominant effect will occur, the lawyer will not be subject to discipline under this Rule.
Comment 6 states that if two admitting jurisdictions were to proceed against a lawyer for the same conduct, the jurisdictions should, applying this rule, identify the same governing ethics rules. The jurisdictions should take all appropriate steps to see that they apply the same rule to the same conduct, and in all events should avoid proceeding against a lawyer on the basis of two inconsistent rules.
Comment 7 states that the choice of law provision applies to lawyers engaged in transnational practice, unless international law, treaties, or other agreements between competent regulatory authorities in the affected jurisdictions provide otherwise.