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Opportunity in out-of-state practice

Keith posted last week about his plan to become licensed in Pennsylvania in Bar Exam Redux. Of course, we all wish him luck. It got me thinking about some of the advantages that young lawyers have over the more experienced attorneys.

Frequently, one of those advantages is energy.

Lawyers who have been in the business for a long time, particularly partners who have to worry about the day-to-day management of their firm in addition to a caseload, typically do not have the time nor the energy to add something like another bar exam to their To-Do lists.

This presents an incredible opportunity for lawyers like Keith.

I had a similar experience. At my first law firm, we did a lot of pharmaceutical litigation, and much of it ended up being in Pennsylvania. When I joined the firm, we were relying on a Pennsylvania attorney to be our local counsel and to move for our pro hac vice admission. I’m not sure if the firm was paying for it, or if it was a favor from an attorney we knew. Regardless, it was undoubtedly inconvenient to not have that attorney at our constant beck and call. So, they asked me to take the exam.

I remember my boss asking me. He basically said that I could turn down his request, with no hard feelings. He kept telling me that there was no pressure to accept the assignment, that the bar exam is one of the worst experiences anyone ever has to go through, and he wouldn’t wish it on anyone. No one would think less of me for not taking it.

But, I took it anyway. I was a new lawyer, and my job was to do as much as I could for my firm, to prove my value, and even more than that, to bring value to the team. It’s true — no one really wants to take the bar exam the first time, much less the second. I didn’t particularly want to re-memorize ConLaw (strict scrutiny, intermediate scrutiny — what’s the difference?).

And you know what? It was easier the second time around. Especially when one of the essays was about medical malpractice, which I had spent over a year on in real life.

As difficult as it is, additional bar licenses will always be with you. You may leave your current firm, but you will always be able to have multiple licenses on your letterhead. It’s really a win-win situation — they pay for it, they reap the short-term benefits, and if you eventually move on, you get to keep it.

One cautionary note: If you do become licensed in another state that you do not customarily practice in, be sure to acquaint yourself with other lawyers from that state. You will need people you can trust to ask procedural questions, and who know the local players (judges, opposing counsel). This will help to keep your new license safe.

So, good luck, Keith.