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Lawyers outside Kentucky need local counsel to practice in Commonwealth courts

Legal matters often cross state lines. Many businesses touch more than one state with their commercial activities. Personal matters like probate, personal injury, insurance disputes, employment issues, professional licensure, real estate and others can easily involve parties with different states of residence or places of doing business. Or, a legal issue develops in Kentucky and an involved person moves away.

When a person retains a lawyer licensed in another state and it becomes necessary to bring or respond to a legal matter in a Kentucky state court, Kentucky Supreme Court rule requires that the lawyer associate with local counsel licensed to practice in the Commonwealth. It can be extremely helpful and professionally important to engage solid, experienced local counsel knowledgeable in the area of law at issue.

At our firm, we have a significant track record of serving as local counsel to out-of-state attorneys (sometimes called trial lawyers or lead attorneys) whose clients have legal matters before courts or agencies throughout the Bluegrass State. Our lawyers’ significant experience in diverse areas of Kentucky jurisprudence is especially valuable to co-counsel unfamiliar with Kentucky law and procedure as well as local custom and courts. As co-counsel, we support our affiliated attorneys from other states at the level needed for their client advocacy efforts.

Local counsel rule

The state Supreme Court requires that if a lawyer holds a law license in any other state, they may “practice a case” in Kentucky – called pro hac vice representation – by making a motion to appear in a Kentucky court and:

  • Following Kentucky Supreme Court rules and submitting to its jurisdiction
  • Paying an annual fee to the Kentucky Bar Association (KBA) (beyond the first year only if the case is still pending)
  • Engaging a Kentucky-licensed lawyer as co-counsel
  • Submitting to the KBA a pro hac vice certification form (available from the next linked source) and associated fees
  • Submitting to the court KBA’s certification that they received the lead attorney’s form and fees

Co-counsel (local counsel) must appear at “all trials” and as otherwise ordered by the court.

Pro hac vice appearance

When an out-of-state lawyer obtains court permission and retains local counsel in order to represent a client in a Kentucky case, the arrangement is pro hac vice. In this arrangement, local counsel owe the same professional duty of care to the lead counsel’s client that local counsel would to their own client. In essence, trial counsel and local counsel share the client.

Local counsel are bound in the mutual case by ethical rules of honesty, confidentiality, compliance with the law and court rules, vigorous advocacy, regular communication with the client, diligence, not engaging in representation involving a conflict of interest, competence and others.