Another Tile in the “Jurisdictional Mosaic” of Lawyer Regulation: Modifying Admission by Motion Rules to Meet the Needs of the 21st Century Lawyer
DeBlasis, Abigail L.
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Can practicing law on a less than "full-time" basis hinder a lawyer's future mobility? The answer depends on which jurisdiction you ask. A parent who is considering a reduced hours schedule for family reasons or a recent graduate whose only option is part-time work should know that these choices may impact future mobility. This Article provides an in-depth exploration of the current admission by motion rules, which are the rules that allow a lawyer who is already licensed and practicing in one jurisdiction to be admitted in another jurisdiction without having to take that jurisdiction's bar exam. These rules are of great necessity in the modern world given the need for mobility. The rules require that an applicant have been practicing law for some stated period of time in the original jurisdiction, assuming that these years in practice will ensure the applicant has minimum competence to practice in the same way that passing a bar exam ensures minimum competence. For example, a rule may require that the applicant have been actively engaging in the practice of law for five of the seven years immediately preceding her application for admission by motion. A troubling aspect of some jurisdictions' rules is the requirement of "full-time" prior practice. The Article started out with a concern that lawyers, especially female lawyers, who work less than full-time for family or other reasons were significantly disadvantaged by the requirement of "full-time" prior practice. Of particular concern was that while some rules required full-time prior practice, they also allowed the applicant some “grace period” during which the applicant need not have practiced law at all. Even though the rules provided this grace period, they did not provide a part-time equivalent, thereby essentially preferring that a working parent drop out of practice entirely (during the grace period) rather than return to work on a less than full-time basis. Although the Article started there, it does not end there. In addition to providing an Appendix with the specific requirements of each of the 42 jurisdictions that currently allow admission by motion, it also draws upon recent trends in other admission rules to question not only those jurisdictions that require “full-time” prior practice experience, but to raise questions about whether a lengthy prior practice is the appropriate proxy to ensure an applicant's minimum competence to practice in another jurisdiction. In the end, the Article hopes to persuade for immediate, incremental improvements in the admission by motion rules that account for modern law practice and ensure working parents and more recent generations of lawyers who work less than full-time are not made immobile as a result.