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USA - North Carolina International Trade in Legal Services

United States of America - North Carolina International Trade in Legal Services


Is there legislation governing the legal sector


Under what title do lawyers practise?

Attorney at law; lawyer

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








An individual must satisfy the Rules Governing Admission to the Practice of Law as adopted by the North Carolina Supreme Court.
See also, Rule .0105 of The North Carolina State Bar: Approval Of Law Schools
Every applicant for admission to the N.C. State Bar must meet the requirements set out in at least one of the numbered paragraphs below:
(1) The applicant holds an LL.B or J.D. degree from a law school that was approved by the American Bar Association at the time the degree was conferred; or
(2) Prior to August 1995, the applicant received an LL.B., J.D., LL.M., or S.J.D. degree from a law school that was approved by the council of the N.C. State Bar at the time the degree was conferred;
(3) Prior to August 2005, the applicant received an LL.M or S.J.D. degree from a law school that was approved by the American Bar Association at the time the degree was conferred.
An individual must also satisfy character and fitness to practice requirements (See Rule .0600 of the Rules Governing Admission to the Practice of Law adopted by the North Carolina Supreme Court), and have passed the bar exam.
It does not have to be renewed.

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 entitles the holder to practice in North Carolina. The right to practice on a temporary basis in another state in the U.S or to appear pro hac vice in another state depends on the explicit permission of that state.  If federal law allowed a foreign lawyer to practice in a particular court or practice area, federalism would require North Carolina to honour that.

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









Only licensed North Carolina lawyers may engage in the activities described in the following statute:
§84-2.1. “Practice of law” defined.
The phrase “practice law” as used in this Chapter is defined to be performing any legal service for any other person, firm or corporation, with or without compensation, specifically including the preparation or aiding in the preparation of deeds, mortgages, wills, trust instruments, inventories, accounts or reports of guardians, trustees, administrators or executors, or preparing or aiding in the preparation of any petitions or orders in any probate or court proceeding; abstracting or passing upon titles, the preparation and filing of petitions for use in any court, including administrative tribunals and other judicial or quasi-judicial bodies, or assisting by advice, counsel, or otherwise in any legal work; and to advise or give opinion upon the legal rights of any person, firm or corporation: Provided, that the above reference to particular acts which are specifically included within the definition of the phrase “practice law” shall not be construed to limit the foregoing general definition of the term, but shall be construed to include the foregoing particular acts, as well as all other acts within the general definition.

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


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

A North Carolina lawyer may practice as a sole practitioner (self-employed), in a general or limited liability partnership, in a professional limited liability company, and in a professional corporation.  Ownership in any of these legal forms by a non-lawyer is prohibited.

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

The North Carolina Rules of Professional Conduct  which are modelled on the ABA model code (see:http://www.ncbar.com/rules/rpcsearch.asp)

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

No. However, professional limited liability companies and professional corporations are required, by N.C. statute, to register with the North Carolina State Bar, the regulatory agency for the legal profession in North Carolina.

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

Licences are issued by the North Carolina Board of Law Examiners.



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 North Carolina Rule of Professional Conduct 5.5, Unauthorized Practice of Law)

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 North Carolina would need to be fully admitted to the North Carolina 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 apply for admission as a foreign legal consultant.   Legal services are limited to advice about the law of the country where the foreign legal consultant is licensed.   See N.C. Gen. Stat. Chapter 84A. 

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

Yes, a foreign legal consultant must maintain malpractice insurance in an amount specified by the NC Supreme Court; file an oath with the NC Supreme Court; and maintain trust accounts according to NC State Bar rules.  See N.C. Gen. Stat. Sect. 84A-5.

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

Yes, see N.C. Gen. Stat. Sect. 84A-2.   Per the requirements of the NC Supreme Court, the lawyer must also have a satisfactory character and fitness review by the N.C. Board of Law Examiners.

Are foreign lawyers permitted to undertake arbitration and mediation?


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


Can foreign lawyers requalify as local lawyers?


North Carolina Supreme Court Rules Governing Admission to the
Practice of Law, Section .0502 http://www.ncble.org/ (Reciprocity required and $1500 application fee).The eligibility of foreign-trained applicants is limited to those who had an LL.M. conferred prior to August 1, 2005, the date of the pertinent rule change.


Can a foreign law firm obtain a licence 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)

If a foreign law firm has an office in North Carolina staffed by at least one North Carolina licensed lawyer, it must register with the North Carolina State Bar as a foreign law firm and must obtain a certificate of authority to transact business in North Carolina from the NC Secretary of State.

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? Not applicable
Are there rules about the name a foreign law firm can take? Not applicable
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?

Not applicable

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

Not applicable

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

Not applicable

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

Yes, but not to provide legal services to third parties unless the foreign lawyer has qualified as a foreign legal consultant. 



Other useful sources or comments or links


Verified by

North Carolina Board of Law Examiners (February 2014)