Reed Smith Client Alerts

The Florida Supreme Court amended its Authorized House Counsel Rule to allow foreign lawyers authorized to practice as a lawyer or counselor in a foreign jurisdiction to serve as authorized in-house counsel in Florida, providing substantial benefits to multinational companies with counsel in Florida.

Authors: Ed Mullins Ana Maria Barton

On November 9, 2017, the Florida Supreme Court amended its Authorized House Counsel Rule to allow foreign lawyers authorized to practice as a lawyer or counselor in a foreign jurisdiction to serve as authorized in-house counsel in Florida. This change expands the current rule, which only authorizes lawyers licensed to practice law in any U.S. jurisdiction to serve as in-house counsel in Florida. In doing so, the Florida Supreme Court adopted the ABA model rule on point, which recently had been amended to allow states to permit foreign in-house counsel (not just foreign lawyers) to be authorized in-house counsel. This amendment was sponsored by the International Law Section of the Florida Bar and spearheaded by Edward M. Mullins in our Miami office, a former chair of the Section, who also spearheaded the ABA amendment, as well. It goes into effect on February 1, 2018.

Under the new rule, “authorized house counsel” includes any person who (1) is either licensed to practice law in a U.S. jurisdiction other than Florida, or otherwise authorized to practice as a lawyer or the equivalent in a foreign jurisdiction, and is subject to effective regulation and discipline pertaining to their status as lawyers; (2) is exclusively employed by a business organization located in Florida and is residing in Florida or relocating to Florida for employment within 6 months, and receives or will receive compensation for activities performed for that business organization; (3) has completed an application for certification to be authorized house counsel in Florida; and (4) has been so certified by the Supreme Court of Florida.

Authorized house counsel, however, are limited in what they can do. They can give legal advice to the business organization for which they work regarding its business, negotiate matters for the business organization, represent the business organization in its dealings with administrative agencies or commissions, and provide certain pro bono legal services. They cannot, however, represent themselves as members of The Florida Bar licensed to practice law in Florida, represent any shareholder, owner, partner, officer, employee, servant, or agent in a personal capacity in any matter or transaction, or appear as counsel in any court proceedings.