Q: I just found out that my attorney only passed the bar exam in New York, but he's working on my case in Illinois.
Is that legal malpractice?
A: It depends. Normally an attorney licensed in a state can only practice in that state. It is possible to get permission from a court in a second state to handle a particular case which is before that court, however. This permission will appear as a motion asking permission and an order granting permission which will appear in the court record for the case. The motion and order typically reference being able to practice "pro hoc vice," a Latin phrase meaning "for this occasion" or "for this event." If he has not done this, or if your situation does not involve a court case (such as he is drafting documents for you to start a business in Illinois), then he may not be committing malpractice but he is engaged in the unauthorized practice of law. This is punishable as contempt of court.
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