Texas Supreme Court Issues Order on Changes to International Law Practice

06/11/2014

AUSTIN – The Texas Supreme Court has issued an order (Misc. Docket No. 14-9113) adopting a set of proposed reforms to the state’s international law practice rules that had been recommended by a task force chaired by Haynes and Boone, LLP Partner Larry Pascal. The order, signed by all nine justices, amends Rules I, II, III, XIII, XIV, XVII, and XIX of the Rules Governing Admission to the Bar of Texas, effective Oct. 1.

The rule changes would represent a major leap forward for international law practice in Texas and largely match the rules of perennial market leader New York. In particular, foreign lawyers licensed in civil law countries would be eligible to sit for the Texas Bar by completing an LLM Master’s degree from an ABA-approved law school, in addition to the other requirements under the rule including but not limited to passing a character and fitness test. Common law applicants would have three different routes in order to be eligible to sit for the Texas Bar exam.

The order also streamlines the registration of foreign legal consultants in Texas, which is likely to assist Texas companies in hiring experienced corporate counsel for their in-house needs related to their international expansion or operations.

In addition, the order would permit licensed foreign attorneys to appear pro hac vice in a Texas court proceeding with the assistance of licensed Texas counsel and upon application to the court.

Finally, the Texas Supreme Court’s order would strengthen the LLM degree requirements by adding more required courses (also largely matching New York) and such curricular changes would be grandfathered to be effective two years thereafter.

The court has set the comment period from July 1 through Aug. 31. The Texas Supreme Court will consider changes to the rules in light of public comment received and, if confirmed by the court, the order could become effective as early as Oct. 1.

Pascal expressed his appreciation of the Texas Supreme Court’s actions. “With this order, the Texas Supreme Court has positioned the state to improve its competitiveness in the area of cross-border legal trade and services,” Pascal said. “Texas, with its international reputation for expertise in the energy sector and a diversified economy and broad group of international trade partners, including in Latin America, is well positioned to take advantage of these developments.

“These reforms will particularly make it attractive for foreign lawyers interested in the energy sector to complete an LLM degree in the state, possibly do a one-year practical training with a correspondent law firm, and then return to their home country, thereby building up long-term economic and cultural ties to Texas.”

Adoption of the international law practice task force proposals would represent the culmination of approximately ten years of service by Pascal in this area. He served as the chair of the International Law Section of the State Bar of Texas, and in that capacity led the reform of the Texas Foreign Legal Consultant rule, which was modernized to more closely resemble the ABA Model rule. He also led the adoption of a resolution by the State Bar of Texas at its annual meeting calling for modernization of the international practice rules to be more in line with New York. The Texas Supreme Court later appointed him as the chair of this task force in August 2009 and the task force submitted its unanimous recommendations in December 2012. He also serves on the board of directors of World Services Group, an international law firm network with 130 member firms in 115 countries.

At Haynes and Boone, LLP, Pascal serves as the co-chair of the International Practice Group, specializing in complex corporate projects related to Latin America and Spain. He speaks Spanish and Portuguese and has been recognized by Chambers and Partners and Latin Lawyer for his leading corporate practice in the region.


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