Rule 5.5 (Unauthorized Practice of Law) and Rule 8.5 (Disciplinary Authority; Choice of Law) of the Wyoming Rules of Professional Conduct encompass the Multijurisdictional Practice Rules (MJP) in Wyoming (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 a safe harbor rule for pro hac vice admission, house attorneys, and attorneys engaged in practice authorized by Wyoming or federal 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 Wyoming admission rules and the rules regulating the attorney’s home jurisdiction, in order to avoid the unauthorized practice of law.
RULE 5.5 (Unauthorized Practice of Law)
Rule 5.5 and the applicable comments allow active attorneys licensed in other jurisdictions, and not disbarred or suspended from the practice of law in any jurisdiction, to practice law in Wyoming on behalf of the attorney’s employer without engaging in the unauthorized practice of law.
Wyoming MJP 5.5 Practice Generally
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. Out-of-state attorneys cannot establish an office or other systematic and continuous presence in Wyoming for the practice of law and cannot represent or hold himself of herself out to the public as being admitted to practice in Wyoming.
Comment 3 states presence may be systematic and continuous even if the attorney is not physically present in Wyoming.
For practice under 5.5(c) (Temporary Practice) or 5.5(d) (House Counsel and Practice Authorized by Law), the following comments apply:
Comment 8 and RPC 8.5(a) subject attorneys to the disciplinary authority in Wyoming.
Comment 9 provides that, in some circumstances, attorneys may have to inform the client that the attorney is not licensed to practice law in Wyoming. An example includes when the representation occurs primarily in Wyoming and requires knowledge of Wyoming law.
Comment 10 does not authorize communications that advertise legal services to prospective clients in Wyoming by attorneys only licensed in other jurisdictions.
Wyoming Pro Hac Vice. Attorneys may provide temporary legal services in a pending proceeding before a tribunal in Wyoming if the attorney is authorized by law or order to appear in such a proceeding with a lawyer who is admitted to practice in Wyoming and the Wyoming lawyer actively participates in the matter. (5.5(c)).
Comment 5 states that services may be “temporary” even though the attorney provides services in Wyoming 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.
Comment 6 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.
Wyoming does not offer other rules related to house counsel practice. However, Wyoming’s MJP Rule 5.5 exempts house attorneys from the unauthorized practice of law and the prohibition against establishing an office or other systematic and continuous presence in Wyoming.
- Attorneys may provide legal services to the attorney’s employer or its organizational affiliates so long as the legal services are not those for which a forum requires Wyoming Pro Hac Vice admission. (5.5(d)(1)).
Comment 7 states that the rule does not authorized the provision of personal legal services to the employer’s officer or employees. The rule applies to in-house corporate attorneys, government attorneys, and others who are employed to render legal services to the employer if the employer.
Practice Authorized By Law
Attorneys may also render services in Wyoming authorized by Wyoming 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 Wyoming.
RULE 8.5 (Disciplinary Authority; Choice of Law)
Disciplinary Authority. A lawyer admitted to practice in Wyoming is subject to the disciplinary authority of Wyoming, regardless of where the lawyer’s conduct occurs. A lawyer may be subject to the disciplinary authority of both Wyoming and another jurisdiction for the same conduct. (8.5(a)).
Choice of Law. The Wyoming Rules of Professional Conduct are applied as follows:
For conduct in connection with a proceeding pending in a court before which a lawyer has been admitted to practice (either generally or for purposes of that proceeding), the applicable rules are those of the jurisdiction where the court sits, unless the rules of the tribunal provide otherwise. (8.5(b)(1)).
For any other conduct:
If the lawyer is licensed to practice only in Wyoming, the Wyoming rules apply. (8.5(b)(2)(i)).
If the lawyer is licensed to practice Wyoming and another jurisdiction, the rules are those of the admitting jurisdiction where the lawyer principally practices. Provided, however, that if particular conduct clearly has its predominant effect in another jurisdiction where the lawyer is licensed to practice, the rules of that jurisdiction apply to that conduct. (8.5(b)(2)(ii).
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.
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 if providing that any particular conduct of a lawyer should be subject to only one set of rules of professional conduct and making the determination of which set of rules applies to a particular conduct as straightforward as possible.
Comment 4 states that 8.5(b) that a lawyer licensed in multiple jurisdictions is subject only to the rules of the jurisdiction where he or she (as an individual, not his or her firm) principally practices. The rule has one exception. If particular conduct clearly has its predominant effect in another admitting jurisdiction, then only the rules of that jurisdiction apply. The intention is for the exception to be a narrow one. An example includes a situation where a lawyer admitted and principally practicing in State A, but also admitted in State B, handled an acquisition by a company whose headquarters and operations were in State B of another, similar such company. The exception would not appropriately be applied when the lawyer handled an acquisition by a company whose headquarters and operations were in State A of a company whose headquarters and main operations were in State A, but which also had some operations in State B.
Comment 5 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 do 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.