Iowa House Counsel

Iowa’s House Counsel Rule, Rule 31.16 of the Iowa Court Rules, allows house attorneys licensed in other jurisdictions to practice law in Iowa without going through the formal process of being admitted to the Iowa Bar. Rule 31.16 was amended in September 2012 to adopt the ABA model rule for house counsel admission.

The house counsel registration requirement applies to attorneys who are not admitted in Iowa but are admitted in another U.S. jurisdiction and maintain an office or other systematic and continuous presence in Iowa to practice law as house counsel for a corporation, association, business, educational, or government entity.

Attorneys must be:

  • Admitted to another jurisdiction.
  • A member in good standing where admitted.
  • Cannot be subject to a disciplinary proceeding.

The Iowa Supreme Court may deny or suspend a registration for failing to comply with a support order, defaulting on an obligation owed to the College Student Aid Commission, or defaulting on an obligation owed to the Department of Revenue.

Registering as in-house counsel does not authorize the attorney to provide legal service to the employer for which pro hac vice admission is required The attorney must comply with Iowa’s Pro Hac Vice Rules for any appearances before a court or administrative agency.

Registered attorneys may practice law in Iowa for a period of five years. Continued practice requires the attorney to apply for Iowa Admission on Motion before the five year period expires. The time spent practicing as an Iowa house counsel registered attorney may be used to satisfy the duration requirement.

Attorneys are subject to the Iowa disciplinary rules and procedures.

Application and Certification
House attorneys are required to register and file the required affidavits and supporting documents.

Annual Renewal
After approval, the Client Security Commission will send an annual report form. The registered in-house attorney is required to complete the form and return it to the Client Security Commission within 30 days of registration. Late filing penalties apply. The annual disciplinary fees must be included with the report form.

Termination or Withdrawal of Registration
Termination of house counsel authorization occurs when the attorney ceases to be employed as house counsel with the corporation, association, or other business, educational, or governmental entity submitting the employer affidavit. The employer and attorney must immediately notify the Client Security Commission in writing when the attorney’s employment has ended.

The house counsel authorization remains valid if the attorney obtains employment with another business organization within 90 days. The attorney must submit a written notification indicating the date when the employment terminated, the date when the new employment started, and the name of the new employer. The former employer must certify termination was not based on the attorney’s character or fitness or the attorney’s failure to comply with the house authorization rules. The new employer will file a new employer affidavit.

Attorneys must immediately notify the Iowa Supreme Court Disciplinary Board in writing of any disciplinary or sanction action imposed against the attorney in another jurisdiction.

An application may be denied or termination of the registration may occur for failure to comply with an obligation owed to or by the centralized collection unit of the Department of Revenue, the College Student Aid Commission, or failure to comply with a support order.