USA - Rhode Island International Trade in Legal Services

United States America - Rhode Island International Trade in Legal Services


Is there legislation governing the legal sector

No, the Rhode Island Supreme Court has the exclusive jurisdiction to regulate the practice of law.  Accordingly, the Supreme Court rules govern the legal sector

Under what title do lawyers practise?

Attorney at law, counsellor, and other similar titles.

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

An individual must meet the requirements in the Supreme Court Rules.  The general requirements are a Juris Doctor degree from an ABA accredited law school, satisfying the character and fitness requirements, and having passed the Rhode Island Bar Examination.  The Rhode Island Supreme Court Rules allow attorneys licensed in another United States jurisdiction to take our bar examination without a Juris doctorate degree from an ABA accredited law school with five years of active, full-time practice of law within the 10 years of applying to the take the Rhode Island Bar Examination.  Once issued, the license to practice law issued by the Rhode Island Supreme Court remains in effect unless an attorney resigns from the Rhode Island Bar or action is taken against the license – either administratively for failure to register or pay mandatory bar dues or because of disciplinary action.

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

Whether attorneys licensed to practice law in Rhode Island can practice law in other US jurisdictions depends on the rules of those other jurisdictions. 

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










§11-27-2. Practice of law defined.
The term ""practice law"" as used in this chapter shall be deemed to mean the doing of any act for another person usually done by attorneys at law in the course of their profession, and, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, shall be deemed to include the following:
(1) The appearance or acting as the attorney, solicitor, or representative of another person before any court, referee, master, auditor, division, department, commission, board, judicial person, or body authorized or constituted by law to determine any question of law or fact or to exercise any judicial power, or the preparation of pleadings or other legal papers incident to any action or other proceeding of any kind before or to be brought before the court or other body;
(2) The giving or tendering to another person for a consideration, direct or indirect, of any advice or counsel pertaining to a law question or a court action or judicial proceeding brought or to be brought;
(3) The undertaking or acting as a representative or on behalf of another person to commence, settle, compromise, adjust, or dispose of any civil or criminal case or cause of action;
(4) The preparation or drafting for another person of a will, codicil, corporation organization, amendment, or qualification papers, or any instrument which requires legal knowledge and capacity and is usually prepared by attorneys at law.

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

The Rhode Island Supreme Court Rules require that applicants be a United States citizen or legal resident of good character.

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

A lawyer may practice as a sole practitioner, a general partnership, and as a limited liability entity.  In order to practice as a limited liability entity (LLC, LLP or PC), attorneys must first obtain a license from the Rhode Island Supreme Court.

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

The Rhode Island 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?

Yes, attorneys must obtain a license from the Rhode Island Supreme Court if they practice law as a limited liability entity (LLC, LLP or PC).

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

The Rhode Island Supreme Court licenses attorneys and limited liability entities.



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 Rhode Island would need to be fully admitted to the Rhode Island 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?

No - there is no FLC licensing regime in Rhode Island. Attorneys admitted in other US jurisdictions may provide limited legal services.

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

Not applicable

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

Not applicable

Are foreign lawyers permitted to undertake arbitration and mediation?

In Rhode Island arbitrators and mediators need not be licensed to practice law.  Any person authorized or licensed by the appropriate authority to arbitrate and/or mediate cases can perform those services in Rhode Island.

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


No. The Rhode Island Supreme Court Rules only provide for pro hac vice admission of attorneys licensed in another US jurisdiction and for out-of-state attorneys to provide limited legal services in Rhode Island.

Can foreign lawyers requalify as local lawyers?

Only by full admission to practice law in Rhode Island.


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)

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? 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?

Not applicable



Other useful sources or comments or links


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Clerk to the Rhode Island Supreme Court (January 2014)