USA - Ohio International Trade in Legal Services

United States of America - Ohio International Trade in Legal Services


Is there legislation governing the legal sector

Article IV, Section 2, of the Ohio Constitution; Rule I of the Supreme Court Rules for the Government of the Bar of Ohio   Pursuant to the Ohio Constitution, the Supreme Court of Ohio has exclusive jurisdiction over admission and regulation of the practice of law in Ohio.  Gov. Bar R. I governs admission to the practice of law.

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?

Gov. Bar R. I sets forth the requirements for admission to the practice of law in Ohio.  An applicant must be 21 years of age, have earned a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university, have earned a J.D. or LL.B. from a law school approved by the American Bar Association, satisfy character and fitness to practice requirements, and either (1) have passed the bar examination and the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination or (2) been approved by the Supreme Court for admission on motion.  Once admitted attorneys must comply with attorney registration and continuing legal education/new lawyers training requirements.  Attorneys registered for active status are required to register and pay a registration fee on a biennial basis.

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

An attorney admitted to the practice of law in Ohio and registered for active status may engage in the practice of law in Ohio.  Attorneys seeking to practice on a temporary basis in another state must comply with that state’s requirements for such practice.

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

 Yes.  The “unauthorized practice of law” is defined in Gov. Bar R. VII, Section 2, which also incorporates divisions (A)(1) and (2) and (B)(1) of section 4705.07 of the Ohio Revised Code.  Supreme Court decisions related to the unauthorized practice of law from 1995 to the present may be found at

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 lawyer may practise as a sole practitioner, in a general or limited liability partnership. Fee sharing with non-lawyers is prohibited.

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

The Ohio code of professional conduct which is modelled on the ABA model code (see:

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.

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

Attorneys are admitted to practice (licensed) by the Supreme Court of Ohio.



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 Professional Conduct rule 5.5 on 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 Ohio would need to be fully admitted to the Ohio 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?

A foreign lawyer can obtain a licence to become a foreign legal consultant.  See Rule XI of the Supreme Court Rules for the Government of the Bar of Ohio (Effective January 1, 1989), available online at:
The scope of practice permitted to an FLC includes: Practice of home country and international law; practice of 3rd-country or US/state law provided the FLC obtains advice from an attorney licensed in that jurisdiction and identifies that person to the client.

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

FLCs must be in good standing with their home bar and abide by the State code of conduct

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: a minimum age of 21 years, has been in good standing or the equivalent in the foreign country of admission for 4 of the 6 years immediately preceding application as a FLC, certification of admission to practice and good standing with home-country bar, satisfy character and fitness requirements, has intent to practice as a FLC in Ohio and to maintain an office for such practice, meeting the professional liability insurance requirement, and being subject to the Ohio Code of Professional Responsibility and the disciplinary procedural rules applicable in Ohio.

Are foreign lawyers permitted to undertake arbitration and mediation?


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


See, Gov. Bar R. XI, Section 5, for scope of practice for a FLC.  Also see Gov. Bar R. XII, Pro Hac Vice Admission.
Effective Jan. 1, 2011, out-of-state attorneys seeking permission to appear pro hac vice in an Ohio proceeding must first register with the Supreme Court Office of Attorney Services.  Pro hac vice registration is also available to attorneys admitted to practice in the courts of a foreign state and are in good standing.  After an out-of-state or foreign attorney completes the registration requirements and receives a Certificate of Pro Hac Vice Registration, the attorney must file a Motion for Permission to Appear Pro Hac Vice with the tribunal.  If the out-of-state or foreign attorney receives permission to appear pro hac vice in an Ohio proceeding, the attorney must file a Notice of Permission to Appear Pro Hac Vice with the Office of Attorney Services.

Can foreign lawyers requalify as local lawyers?








A foreign lawyer can obtain a full license to practice law in this jurisdiction.
The relevant Supreme Court rule is Gov. Bar R. I.  The governing body is the Supreme Court of Ohio. The relevant rules are available at pages 3-26 of the document available online at order to obtain a full license to practice law in this jurisdiction, foreign lawyers must be admitted by examination, must have undergraduate and legal education approved by the Supreme Court of Ohio and must meet all requirements of the Bar exam applicants, including receiving final character and fitness approval.  If seeking admission without examination, education again must be approved by the Court if obtained outside the United States and the applicant must have sat for and passed a Bar exam in another state in the United States and have practiced law full time in another US jurisdiction in which they were licensed for at least five full years out of the past ten at the time the application is submitted.
These requirements are different from the rules applicable to a local applicant in that if either undergraduate or legal education were obtained outside of the United States, pursuant to the rules for the government of the Bar, the applicant's education must be evaluated and approved by the Court.  All other requirements between foreign lawyers and local lawyers seeking a full license are the same. If an applicant’s legal education was not received in the United States, the education must be evaluated and approved by the Supreme Court as equivalent to ABA-approved law school education. For equivalency, an applicant must show successful completion of 30 credit hours at an ABA approved law school in addition to a foreign law degree showing at least 3 years of full-time study. The registration application may not be processed until the education is approved by the Supreme Court. At least 3 additional years of full-time post-secondary education are required.


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

There are no separate requirements on law firms. 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)

 Not applicable

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? Foreign name is permitted
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?

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

Supreme Court of Ohio (February 2014)