Monday, September 24, 2012

Was Elizabeth Warren practicing law without a license?

Wow. Professor William Jacobson has a knock-your-socks off exposé of what appears to be repeated instances of unlicensed practice of law by Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren at his blog, Legal Insurrection, this morning:

I'll have more comments on this later, but the short story is that you can't go to a state and start practicing law until you are admitted to that state's bar association. Usually that means taking a bar exam and going through a character and fitness evaluation. 

What Professor Jacobson has done is document years of examples where Warren appeared in court in Massachusetts, filed legal briefs and other motions in support of clients in Massachusetts, and otherwise provided legal representation, but was never admitted to practice in Massachusetts. 

Many states have some sort of temporary admission for out-of-state attorneys called a "pro hac vice" admission (Latin for "for this event"), in which the attorney files a motion requesting permission to appear in that state's court for a specific case. A pro hac vice admission is never guaranteed, and usually the out-of-state attorneys have to show that they are working with attorneys licensed to practice in that state and attest that they will be able to fully and adequately represent the client. 

It doesn't appear that Warren applied for pro hac vice admission in the cases Jacobson found. Instead, she is listed on the court papers along with the other lawyers involved in the case, using her Harvard faculty office as her listed address. 

Whether that is a proper use for a professor's office is an entirely separate issue, but the main problem for Warren is that by listing that address on so many public court documents, she has established a record of practicing law in Massachusetts for several years...without the required license. 

The silly thing is that because she was already licensed in other states and was a member of the Harvard faculty, she could have easily "waived" into the MA Bar. Warren wouldn't have had to take the MA bar exam; all she needed to do was send in an application and pay dues. 

Guess that's one form on which she really should have "checked the box," hmmm?


  1. Elizabeth Warren is in a pickle.

    She may have practiced law without a license. Okay she is in Massachusetts, where you can get away with homicide if you are a democrat...but it is still bad.

    But even if what she did was legal, let's not forget the hypocrisy of Elizabeth Warren, who claims to be a liberal consumer advocate who cares about the working poor, helping Travelers Insurance defeat asbestos claims of union working people. And Elizabeth got $200,000+ for doing so part time.

  2. Let me also point out that Massachusetts requires in-house counsel who maintain law offices here to register and pay annual dues that are equal to those dues paid by licensed MA attorneys.

    So working "as counsel" only excuses her for not being licensed here if she was registered here. It makes little sense to be registered here, but not licensed, for years on end - we don't have MCLE and you pay the same amount of money anyway. (The logical thing to do would be to get reciprocity, then let the licenses in other jurisdictions lapse.)

    1. Great points...thanks for sharing your post. Always helpful to hear what the law *actually* says, hmmm?


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