A Federal Bar for Foreign Lawyers

Part I of this note presents the case for a national bar to regulate foreign lawyers. National regulation would likely enable the United States to conclude reciprocity agreements with foreign nations that would enhance the treatment of U.S. attorneys abroad. It would also benefit the American public by increasing the availability of legal expertise on foreign and international law, and encouraging international trade in services. Part II addresses potential objections to a federal bar regulating foreign lawyers. Part A examines state and local bar associations’ concerns regarding the maintenance of adequate levels of legal and ethical competence. It argues that a rigorous admissions standard and a federal code of professional responsibility, together with a limited scope of practice, will sufficiently address state interests in maintaining minimum levels of legal competence and ethical integrity among foreign attorneys. Part B discusses the fear of some domestic practitioners that federal foreign-attorney regulation will enable foreign attorneys to broaden their practice and thus usurp the business of local practitioners. This section argues that given the limited scope of foreign attorney practice proposed in this note, local practitioners are unlikely to lose much business to foreign lawyers. Furthermore, it suggests that U.S. lawyers are, in fact, under an ethical obligation to encourage federal regulation of foreign attorneys since such regulation will serve the public interest.