Are you corporate counsel based in Illinois? Are you admitted to
the Illinois bar? If not, are you complying with Supreme Court Rule
716? If not, now is the time for you to act!
The Illinois Supreme Court requires all in-house counsel based
in Illinois who are not Illinois-licensed attorneys, to follow
Supreme Court Rule 716 and possess a limited law license. This
requires in-house counsel to pay an annual registration fee, pass a
background check, submit to the disciplinary authority of the
Illinois ARDC, meet the CLE requirements imposed on all practicing
lawyers, and be in good disciplinary standing before the highest
court of every jurisdiction in which that counsel is admitted.
In-house lawyers coming from other jurisdictions may be unaware
of this rule, and fail to timely apply for a limited law license.
Acknowledging that problem, the Illinois Supreme Court has
instituted a one year amnesty program, which allows in-house
counsel to apply for a limited law license without facing
discipline for practicing law unlicensed in Illinois after failing
to timely apply. In-house counsel who apply for a limited law
license in the year 2014 must comply with the requirements of Rule
716, but will not face prosecution or discipline for unauthorized
practice of law in Illinois prior to counsel's application.
In addition, during this amnesty period, new applications will
not have to pay in arrears for licensing fees or make up CLE
credits. Furthermore, attorneys who have practiced with in-house
counsel now seeking amnesty will not be investigated by the ARDC
for his or her connection with the in-house counsel's failure
to procure a limited law license. However, the amnesty program is
not completely painless: in addition to the usual application fee
of $1,250 required under Rule 716, attorneys filing under the
amnesty program must also pay a late registration penalty of an
Why is this so crucial? Failure to apply for a limited law
license not only exposes you to a prosecution for unlicensed law
practice, but can expose your client's privileged documents as
well. In Gucci America, Inc. v. Guess?, Inc., a magistrate judge
ordered privileged documents be produced because Gucci's
in-house counsel had not maintained a valid law license. (No. 09
Civ. 4373), 2010 WL 2720079 (S.D.N.Y. June 29, 2010). Ultimately
the district judge overturned the ruling, but not without costly
litigation. (No. 09 Civ. 4373), 2011 WL 9375 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 3,
2011). That is not a risk you or your client wants to take.
The amnesty program runs throughout 2014. If you have any
questions, your Dentons team is happy to assist in navigating Rule
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guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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