The IBA’s response to the war in Ukraine  

USA - Illinois International Trade in Legal Services

USA - Illinois International Trade in Legal Services

Back to Map

Is there legislation governing the legal sector

Under the law of Illinois, the Supreme Court of Illinois has jurisdiction over the practice of law in Illinois. The Court has adopted rules to regulate the practice of law .Ill. S.Ct. R. 701, et seq. Nonetheless, the Illinois legislature has authority to enact related legislation, to the extent that it does not violate separation of powers principles. Such legislation includes Illinois Compiled statutes, Chapter705 Courts, (705ILCS205/) Attorney Act.  See also, Chapter720, (720ILCS5/17-2)The False Personation Act;Chapter708, (708ILCS205/1), The Legal Business Solicitation Act; Chapter705, (705ILCS210/1), Corporation Practice of Law Prohibition Act; and Chapter815, (815ILCS505/1), Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Practices Act.

Under what title do lawyers practise?

Attorney at law

How does an individual lawyer obtain a "licence" to practise law? How often must this be renewed?

An application to obtain a license to practice law in Illinois is governed by Illinois Supreme Court Rules 701, et seq. An individual must have a LLB or JD, satisfy character and fitness to practice requirements, and have passed the bar exam. Attorneys must register annually and satisfy continuing legal education requirements to continue to be authorized to practice law pursuant to the Illinois law license.

Does this entitle the holder to practise throughout the country? If the law license only permits one to practice on a sub-national level, please explain the jurisdictional limits

This only automatically entitles the holder to practise in Illinois. The right to practise on a temporary basis in another state or to appear pro hac vice in another state depends on the explicit permission of that state.

Are there certain activities that are "reserved" to those who are licensed to practise law in the jurisdiction?


The Illinois Supreme Court has described the practice of law as“{W}hen {T}the giving of such adviceor rendition of such service(byanyperson, firm or corporation)requires the use of any degree of legal knowledge or skill.” State BarAss’nv. Schafer, 404Ill. 45, 51, 87 N.E.2d 773 (1949)

Do you need to hold local nationality to be eligible to practise law?

Illinois has no citizenship eligibility requirement for a law license.


What legal forms can lawyers work in? (e.g. self employment, partnership, limited liability partnership, multi-disciplinary partnership, incorporation)

A lawyer may practise as a sole practitioner, in a general partnership or limited liabilityentity.  Fee sharing with non-lawyers is prohibited.
Ill.S.Ct. R.7 21(a)  provides  that  “Professional service corporations formed under the Professional Service Corporation Act (805ILCS10/1et seq.), professional associations organized under theProfessional Association Act (805ILCS305/0.01et seq.), limited liabilitycompanies organized under the Limited Liability Company Act (805ILCS180/1–1 et seq.), orregistered limited liabilitypartnerships organized under the Uniform Partnership Act (1997)(805ILCS206/100 et seq.), or professional corporations, professional associations, limited liability companies, or registeredlimited liability partnerships formed under similar provisions of successor Acts to anyof thefore going legislation or under similarstatutes ofotherstates or jurisdictions of theUnited States  mayengagein  thepracticeof  law  in  Illinois,”  with  certain  limitations.

What other ethical or regulatory requirements must a licensed lawyer comply with? 

The Illinois Rules of ProfessionalConduct, which are modelled on the ABA model code(see:
Other requirementsconsist of compliancewith other regulatoryrules of the Supreme Court, includingannual renewal of professional association registration (Ill. S. Ct. R.721(e) and(f),annual attorneyregistration (Ill. S. Ct. R. 756) and minimum continuinglegal education requirements (Ill. S.Ct. R. 790, et seq.) 

Do law firms need to receive a "license" (or permission/approval) to practice law?

Not from the Court but may be subject to other notification requirements depending on the form taken (e.g. limited liability company) and the local State code.
A certificate ofregistration, to the extent requiredbySupremeCourtRule 721.

Which authority issues licences? Are there different authorities for individuals and firms? 

Individual licences are issued by the Illinois Supreme Court Supreme Court Rule 701(a)
Registration ofassociations ispursuant to Supreme Court Rule 721, which is administered bythe Clerk ofthe Supreme Court.


Is the jurisdiction a member of the WTO?

The US joined the WTO on 1 January 1995

Has it made any commitments under GATS in legal services?

The USA has scheduled commitments for Illinois in modes 1 and 3 for the practice of home country law and international law (to the extent this is incorporated in home-country law).

Is the jurisdiction party to bilateral agreements which offer special treatment to businesses or individuals from particular countries?

The US has bilateral agreements with: the Dominican Republic - Central America (CAFTA), Korea, North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Australia, Bahrain, Chile,  Colombia,  Israel, Jordan, Morocco, Oman, Panama, Peru and Singapore. It is currently negotiating new agreements with the EU  (TTIP) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Do these currently include legal services or are there plans to include them in future?

The NAFTA agreement calls for future negotiations on MRAs amongst the legal professions and lawyers are included in the professional visa programme.

Are foreign lawyers from different jurisdictions treated differently as a result of any such agreements?

NAFTA lawyers have access to the professional visa program

Are there any 'foreign law' firms present in this jurisdiction?

The only "foreign" firms present in Illinois are DLA Piper, Hogan Lovells and Dentons who are all established under the US arms of their Swiss vereins.

Are there any explicit rules or restrictions other than visas on fly in fly out practice of law? Ie. Do you need to obtain a licence for temporary practice?

 Foreign lawyers are not permitted to provide fly-in fly-out services, this is only permitted to lawyers from other US states (see rule 5.5 on Unauthorized Practice of Law).
A foreign lawyer maybeauthorized to providelegal services in a proceedingpursuant toIllinois Supreme Court Rule 707.A foreign lawyer mayalso provide services inIllinois as authorized byfederal law in federal matters.  See Sperryv. Florida, 373 U.S. 379 (1963).

Can a foreign lawyer obtain a visa to visit clients or to market but not to practice?




Under the WTO commitments of the USA, an individual wishing to practise law on a fly in fly out basis in Illinois would need to be fully admitted to the Illinois Bar or to the Bar of another US State. 'Service salespersons' are permitted to enter the USA for periods of up to 90 days. "Service salespersons" are "persons not based in the territory of the United States and receiving no remuneration from a source located within the United States, who are engaged in activities related to representing a services supplier for the purpose of negotiating for the sale of the services of that supplier where: a) such sales are not directly made to the general public and b) the salesperson is not engaged in supplying the service" Entry for persons named in this section is limited to a ninety-day period.

Can a foreign lawyer obtain a licence to establish and practise as a foreign legal consultant and what is the scope of this limited licence?

 Yes - a foreign lawyer can become a foreign legal consultant (see Illinois Supreme Court Rules 712 and 713 (Adopted December 7, 1990)). This licence permits a foreign lawyer to offer services in international law to the extent they are incorporated in home-country law. It does not permit the practice of 3rd-country law or of Illinois law.
Pursuant toIllinoisSupreme Court Rule 712,  “A person licensedas a foreign legalconsultant under this rulemayrenderlegal services andgive professional advicewithin this state onlyon the law ofthe foreign country where  the  foreign  legal  consultant  is  admitted  to  practice.”

Are there any conditions that must be fulfilled once a foreign lawyer has been granted a limited licence (e.g. residency requirement)

An FLC licensed in Illinois must abide by the code of State conduct and meet the professional indemnity insurance requirements.

Are there any conditions that must be fulfilled for a foreign lawyer to qualify for a limited licence? (e.g. prior practice)

Licensure is subject to meeting requirements of registration, an experience requirement (5 of the 7 years preceding registration must have been spent practising law), meeting the professional liability insurance requirement, a written commitment to observe the Rules of Professional Conduct, and certification of registration and good standing with home-country bar.

Are foreign lawyers permitted to undertake arbitration and mediation?

Illinois has restricted the exemption to model rule 5.5. only to lawyers licensed to practise elsewhere in the US so limiting the right of foreign lawyers to conduct arbitration or mediation  "(c) A lawyer admitted in another United States jurisdiction, and not disbarred or suspended from practice in any jurisdiction, may provide legal services on a temporary basis in this jurisdiction that:
(1) are undertaken in association with a lawyer who is admitted to practice in this jurisdiction and who actively participates in the matter;
(2) are in or reasonably related to a pending or potential proceeding before a tribunal in this or another jurisdiction, if the lawyer, or a person the lawyer is assisting, is authorized by law or order to appear in such proceeding or reasonably expects to be so authorized;
(3) are in or reasonably related to a pending or potential arbitration, mediation, or other alternative dispute resolution proceeding in this or another jurisdiction, if the services arise out of or are reasonably related to the lawyer’s practice in a jurisdiction in which the lawyer is admitted to practice and are not services for which the forum requires pro hac vice admission;"

Are foreign lawyers allowed to appear in court under any circumstances?


Illinois Supreme Court Rule 707 permits the appearance in court of eligible foreign attorneys in isolated cases upon submission of required papers.

Can foreign lawyers requalify as local lawyers?


Illinois Supreme Court Rule 705
http://www.state.il.us/court/SupremeCourt/Rules/Art_VII/artvii.htm#Rule%20705 Graduates of foreign law schools who are licensed and in good standing in country conferring law degree or in a U.S. jurisdiction, who have
actively and continuously practiced under such license(s) for 5 of the 7 years immediately prior to making application in Illinois, having verifiably devoted an annual minimum of 1,000 hours of practice of law where licensed, and the quality of whose legal and other education has been determined acceptable by the Board may apply to take bar exam.
Rule 703(b) requires afirst lawdegree in law from a school approved bythe AmericanBar Association.Rule 703 maybefound at: http://www.state.il.us/court/SupremeCourt/Rules/Art_VII/artVII.htm#Rule703

Can a foreign law firm obtain a licence to open an office?

 There are no separate requirements on law firms.  Court Rule 721 for Certificate of Registration requirements. http://www.state.il.us/court/SupremeCourt/Rules/Art_VII/artVII.htm#Rule721
Paragraph (c) of the rule imposes requirements for specified professional service entity to practice law in Illinois and prohibits such entities from practicing law or opening a law office without a certificate of registration.
Rule 5.5(b) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct provides guidance as well: (b) A lawyer who is not admitted to practice in this jurisdiction shall not:
(1) except as authorized by these Rules or other law, establish an office or other systematic and continuous  presence in this jurisdiction for the practice of law; or
(2) hold out to the public or otherwise represent that the lawyer is admitted to practice law in this jurisdiction. An FLC is permitted to open an office.

Even if a foreign law firm does not require a legal licence must they register in some form in order to set up an office? (e.g. with a ministry of company affairs etc)

Are there different types of foreign law firm 'licence'  (e.g. Joint Law Venture, stand alone foreign licence etc)

Not applicable

Is there a quota on the number of licences available?

Not applicable

Are there geographical restrictions on foreign firm licences or on the number of branches a foreign firm can have?


Are there "scope of practice" rules that apply directly to foreign law firms (as opposed to lawyers themselves)? (e.g. home, host, international law), if so, what are they? No
Are there restrictions on the corporate form a foreign law firm can take? See Rule 721 as discussed above
Are there rules about the name a foreign law firm can take?

Foreign name is permitted
Rule 7.5 of the Illinois rules of Professional Conduct provides applies to US attorneys practicing in Illinois and would provide some guidance to foreign lawyers as well:
(a) A lawyer shall not use a firm name, letterhead or other professional designation that violates Rule 7.1. A trade name may be used by a lawyer in private practice if it does not imply a connection with a government agency or with a public or charitable legal services organization and is not otherwise in violation of Rule 7.1.
(b) A law firm with offices in more than one jurisdiction may use the same name or other professional designation in each jurisdiction, but identification of the lawyers in an office of the firm shall indicate the jurisdictional limitations on those not licensed to practice in the jurisdiction where the office is located.
(c) The name of a lawyer holding a public office shall not be used in the name of a law firm, or in communications on its behalf, during any substantial period in which the lawyer is not actively and regularly practicing with the firm.
(d) Lawyers may state or imply that they practice in a partnership or other organization only when that is the fact.

What entity grants a 'license' to a foreign law firm? If that entity is on the Internet, please provide the URL Not applicable
Are there restrictions on the ownership share of foreign lawyers in a law firm?

Rule 721(a)(2) requires that one or more members of a registered Rule 721 entity be a practicing Illinois lawyer and paragraph (e)(5) of the rule requires that the registration application state that each member of the entity is a member of a bar and that no disciplinary proceeding is pending as to any member

May a domestic lawyer be employed by a foreign lawyer or law firm?

Yes - this is explicitly mentioned in the USA's schedule of specific commitments on legal services

Can a domestic lawyer enter into partnership with a foreign lawyer?


Can a domestic lawyer or domestic law firm employ a foreign lawyer?



Other useful sources or comments or links



Verified by

Illinois Attorney Disciplinary Counsel (March 2014)