Larry Pascal Chairs Supreme Court Task Force Recommending Rule Changes to Make Texas Legal Market More Internationally Competitive

01/14/2013

DALLAS – A Texas Supreme Court task force chaired by Haynes and Boone, LLP Partner Larry Pascal has proposed for consideration by the Texas Supreme Court a set of reforms that would make the Texas legal market more internationally competitive to better reflect the realities of the new global economy.

The reforms are in part inspired by New York, which for long has been the leader in the United States in international law matters, although the proposal submitted by the task force as to foreign attorney eligibility to sit for the Texas Bar is slightly more restrictive than the New York rule.

The Task Force on International Law Practice in Texas, chaired by Larry Pascal (the co-chair of the International Practice Group at the firm and a former chair of the International Law Section of the State Bar of Texas) and vice-chaired by Leland de la Garza of Shackelford, Melton & McKinley, recently submitted its final recommendations after more than three years of study.

The report recommends improvements in three areas – (1) eligibility of foreign lawyers to sit for the Texas Bar exam (for example, foreign lawyers from civil law countries who hold a foreign law license and have obtained an LL.M degree from an ABA-approved law school in the United States would be eligible to sit for the Texas Bar exam, subject to character and fitness review and other standard requirements); (2) the foreign legal consultant rule for those foreign lawyers based in Texas who wish to only to practice the law of their home country; and (3) the Texas pro hac vice rule so that a foreign lawyer could make an appearance before a Texas court in a pending Texas case, subject to having Texas counsel in the case and approval of the motion by the applicable judge hearing the case.

The reforms pertaining to eligibility of foreign lawyers to sit for the Texas Bar would also strengthen the curricular requirements of the LL.M program, and require more concentration on Texas and U.S. law matters tested on the Texas Bar exam. A draft ABA Model Rule recommended similar curricular changes and New York recently adopted similar curricular changes as well.

The task force recommendations are still subject to Texas Supreme Court consideration and approval.

“Our proposals, if adopted, would build upon the foreign legal consultant reforms adopted by the Texas Supreme Court in 2005 and better position Texas to compete for the ’best and the brightest’ that the world has to offer, rather than sending them to New York and disadvantaging Texas law firms, companies, and users of cross-border legal services,” noted Pascal. “In addition, we expect Texas law school programs that offer LL.M programs will be better able to attract fine foreign lawyer candidates to study in the state, thereby enhancing the diversity of the academic environment in the state.”

The task force’s proposals would seek to correct a major weakness in the state’s legal marketplace. Currently, more than 4,000 foreign attorneys sit annually for the New York State Bar examination, whereas Texas, the largest exporter in the country, only attracts 15 to 20 foreign lawyer candidates per year, due to antiquated eligibility rules that shut out talented candidates, who instead opt for New York.

“The proposed amendments are intended to reflect changing market realities facing the state and thereby offer law schools, law firms and clients based in Texas greater access to international resources,” the final report said.

The 14-member task force consisted of a broad spectrum of Texas lawyers from throughout the state. They work in private practice, as corporate counsel, and in Texas law schools. Representatives of the staff of the Texas Board of Law Examiners and the State Bar of Texas also participated, as did a representative from the Unauthorized Practice of Law Committee. In addition, two dual-licensed lawyers (representing England and Brazil, respectively) also participated. The task force met on numerous occasions and obtained the input from a variety of industry actors including representatives from the American Bar Association, the New York Board of Law Examiners, the English Law Society, and the United States Trade Representative (USTR) office.

A copy of the Task Force report is available on the Texas Supreme Court website.

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