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October 23, 2013

Are you a house counsel? Admission is required in 2014.

by contributor
house counsel
As of Jan. 1, house counsel are required to be admitted in Washington to practice. Learn more about your admission options.

house counselUnder amendments to the Rules of Professional Conduct (RPC) and the Admission to Practice Rules (APR)  effective Jan. 1, 2014, house counsel who are not admitted in Washington will be required to be admitted in Washington to continue practice as house counsel. Amended RPC 5.5(d) and APR 8(f). House counsel in this situation will have three options available without having to sit for the bar exam: 

Option 1: Admission by Motion (amended APR 3(c)). 

This is the best option for house counsel admitted in another U.S. jurisdiction. It provides full admission to the practice of law in Washington. There are two primary requirements for admission by motion:

1) active legal experience for three out of the last five years; practice as house counsel in Washington (or anywhere) counts as active legal experience.

2) passing the Washington Law Component (WLC) test, which is an online, open-book, multiple-choice test that applicants can do anytime and anywhere they have a computer with an Internet connection. The WLC is meant to be an educational tool, so lawyers practicing in Washington are aware of unique or unusual aspects of Washington law. All questions on the test come from the WLC research materials.

Option 2: Limited Admission as House Counsel (amended APR 8(f)).

This is the best option for those who do not have three years of active legal experience and who do not have a Uniform Bar Exam score. Any lawyer admitted anywhere in the world may apply under this rule. (Admission by exam will no longer be a requirement under this rule for foreign house counsel.) House counsel admitted under this rule will not be permitted to appear in court and the practice will be limited to the corporate client/employer. However, despite the limited admission, house counsel under this rule will have the same application process and fees and the same licensing requirements (license fees, MCLE, etc.) as a full member of the WSBA. For this reason, we recommend that anyone with at least three years of active practice apply for admission by motion.

Option 3: Uniform Bar Exam Score Transfer (amended APR 3 and Admission Policies).

This option is for those who have a UBE score of at least 270 and who have been admitted less than 40 months (and have less than three years of active legal experience). House counsel in this situation may apply at our online admissions site at any time.

Temporary Practice as House Counsel under RPC 5.5(d).

RPC 5.5(d) currently governs house counsel practice without licensure and is being amended so that practice under that provision will be temporary only. House counsel applying for admission can use this rule while waiting for the application and admission process to be completed.

Applying for Admission.

Applications for admission by motion will be available online on Jan. 1, 2014. Application for limited admission as house counsel will require submission of a paper application, which will be posted on the House Counsel page after Jan. 1, 2014. No applications can be accepted until after Jan. 1, 2014, when the amendments take effect. There is a $620 application fee, and a separate investigation fee that must be paid to the NCBE for all applications. Expect the application/admission process to take up to six months.

Questions? Email admissions@wsba.org or call 206-727-8209.

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