Winter is fast-approaching. That means the snowbirds are already here, or on the way. Honestly, I have no problem with the snowbirds. In fact, I hope to be one someday. Snowbirds are generally honest and hardworking people, here to enjoy the fruits of the years of labor. I like that, and I respect that.
However, some new and unwanted visitors are anticipated this year, that may well change the legal climate in Arizona. The Arizona Supreme Court decided that starting January 1, 2010 attorneys from other states may practice law in Arizona without having to take and pass the Arizona Bar exam. This, I think, is very bad for those of us that live here and raise our families here. The possibilities are not enticing for a small firm like mine.
Admission on motion is the practice of allowing attorneys to practice law in a jurisdiction other than the one they are licensed in. Arizona’s requirements will include reciprocity, meaning attorneys from another jurisdiction will only be allowed to practice here if that jurisdiction also allows Arizona attorneys. Following are all of Arizona’s requirements published by the Arizona Supreme Court:
A. Applicant must be admitted by bar examination to practice law in a reciprocating jurisdiction.
B. Applicant must hold a law degree from a school approved by the American Bar Association (ABA).
C. Applicant must have been actively practicing law for five of the seven years immediately preceding the application file date.
D. Applicant must submit a passing score on the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE) as it is established in this jurisdiction.
E. Applicant must establish current good standing in all jurisdictions where admitted.
F. Applicant must establish that he/she is not currently subject to lawyer discipline or the subject of a pending disciplinary matter in any other jurisdiction.
G. Applicant must establish that he/she possesses the character and fitness to practice law in this jurisdiction.
H. Applicant must successfully complete a course on Arizona law.
What does this mean for attorneys residing in Arizona and the people living here? In short, the potential for the floodgates to open. How many attorneys practicing law in the frigid cold states would not jump at the opportunity to be a "snowbird attorney" in Arizona for a few months each year? Minimal requirements, fun in the warm weather and sunshine, make a few bucks while on "vacation"? How about those attorneys in states that have substantial tort reform laws, damage caps, etc…? You think they might be chomping at the bit to come to sunny Arizona and grab a few cases and make some money? Of recent years, there have been a few out of state attorneys who have opened up shop here just to take advantage of the more advantageous laws in Arizona. However, they are at least required to have an Arizona licensed attorney in their firm. With reciprocity, this requirement is out the window!
I have discussed this with colleagues over the years. We don’t like it. We have attended school in Arizona, passed the bar exam in Arizona, practiced and raised our families in Arizona. We have done this because Arizona is where we want to live and work. Although a vacation hotspot, it should not be a destination for out of state and unlicensed Arizona attorneys to swoop in and skim a few cases while basking in the sun----then skate back to their state and reap the benefits of the Arizona legal profession.
Your thoughts are always welcome.