Illinois House Counsel

Rule 716 of the Rules on Admission and Discipline of Attorneys allows attorneys licensed in another jurisdiction to receive a limited license to practice in Illinois as house counsel. House attorneys must practice exclusively for a single corporation, partnership, association, or other legal entity, including any parent subsidiary, or affiliate. The organization’s business cannot consist of the practice of law or provision of legal services.

Attorneys must:

  • Meet the applicable character and fitness requirements.
  • Must be in good disciplinary standing before the highest court of every jurisdiction where admitted and is on active status at the time of the application.

House attorneys may act on behalf of his or her employer as if licensed to practice in Illinois, but he or she cannot practice for the employer until the application is accepted and approved. Attorneys cannot offer legal services or advice to the public or in any manner hold him or himself or herself out as being engaged or authorized to engage in the practice of law. Attorneys may provide voluntary pro bono services.

Attorneys are subject to the jurisdiction of the Illinois Supreme Court for disciplinary purposes to the same extent as all other Illinois lawyers. Attorneys who are newly employed as house counsel in Illinois are not deemed to have engaged in the unauthorized practice of law in Illinois prior to licensure if the application is made within 90 days of the commencement of such employment.

Attorneys are required to file with the Board of Admissions the following:

  • Application for the limited license.
  • Employer Certificate stating:
    • The employer is not engaged in the practice of law or the rendering of legal services, whether for a fee or otherwise.
    • The employer is duly qualified to do business under the laws of its organization and the laws of Illinois.
    • The attorney works exclusively as an employee of said employer for the purpose of providing legal services to the employer at the date of his or her application for licensure.
    • The employer will promptly notify the Clerk of the Illinois Supreme Court of the termination of the applicant’s employment.

Renewal and Registration

House attorneys must annually register with the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission and pay the fee for active attorneys and fully comply with the MCLE requirements.

The house counsel license and authorization terminates upon the earliest of the following:

  • The attorney is admitted to the general practice of law under any other rule of the Illinois Supreme Court.
  • The attorney ceases to be employed as house counsel for the employer listed on the initial application. The license remains in effect if the attorney, within 120 days of ceasing to be employed, becomes employed by another employer that meets all of the applicable requirements and files with the Clerk of the Illinois Supreme Court:
    • A written notification by the attorney stating the date when the prior employment terminated, identifies the new employer, and states the date when the new employment commenced.
    • A certificate by the former employer that the termination of employment was not based upon the attorney’s character and fitness or failure to comply with the house counsel rules.
    • A new employer certificate.

Attorneys failing to obtain new employment within 120 days must promptly notify the Clerk of the Illinois Supreme Court in writing regarding the date of termination and can no longer practice under the house counsel rules.