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Illinois Supreme Court Amends Rule on Licensing of In-House Counsel

Fern C. Bomchill
Lauren R. Noll
Mayer Brown LLP - Chicago Office

January 17, 2014

Previously published on January 16, 2014

The Illinois Supreme Court announced late last year that it has temporarily amended Illinois Supreme Court Rule 716 to allow corporate counsel based in Illinois, who are not otherwise admitted in Illinois, to apply for a limited license to practice law without the risk of prosecution for prior unauthorized practice of law.


Under Rule 716, in-house counsel who are working in Illinois but not admitted to practice law in Illinois must apply for and receive a limited license to practice law in the state. A limited license allows corporate counsel to “act on behalf of his or her employer for all purposes as if licensed in Illinois.”1

In-house counsel must submit an application with the Illinois Board of Admissions to the Bar within 90 days of commencing employment and pay a fee of $1,250. In addition, applicants also must:

  • Satisfy the educational requirements of Supreme Court Rule 703;
  • Satisfy the Illinois character and fitness requirements and be certified by the Illinois Committee on Character and Fitness;
  • If licensed to practice law for fewer than 15 years, pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam in Illinois, or in any jurisdiction in which the examination is administered; and
  • Be in good disciplinary standing before the highest court of every jurisdiction in which the applicant has ever been admitted and possess active status in at least one of those jurisdictions.

Beginning with the year in which the limited license is acquired, corporate counsel must register with the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission (ARDC), pay the required annual fee, and comply with all continuing education requirements. Attorneys licensed under Rule 716 “shall be subject to the jurisdiction of the Court for disciplinary purposes to the same extent as all other lawyers licensed to practice law in this state.”2 Applicants who fail to register and obtain the limited license to practice law run the risk of being deemed to have engaged in the unauthorized practice of law.

Beginning January 1, 2014, and expiring one year later, all corporate counsel who have not already applied for and received a limited license under Rule 716 may do so without the risk of being prosecuted for unauthorized practice. As the Supreme Court noted in its press release announcing the amnesty program, there is a disparity between the number of corporate counsel who have received a limited license under Rule 716 and the total number of in-house counsel in Illinois as estimated by the Association of Corporation Counsel. The Court noted possible reasons for not obtaining the limited license, including in-house counsel simply not knowing about the application requirement or inadvertently failing to meet the deadline of filing an application within 90 days of beginning employment, as the rule requires. Accordingly, the Illinois Board of Admissions to the Bar and the ARDC jointly made a proposal to the Court, which resulted in this amendment to Rule 716.

In addition to the application fee of $1,250 as set forth in Rule 716, amnesty applicants must pay a late registration penalty of $1,250. Applicants also must satisfy the other requirements of Rule 716, as described above. Applicants do not have to pay licensing fees in arrears or make up continuing education credits.

Application information can be found online at https://www.ilbaradmissions.org/appinfo.action?id=4.

1 Rule 716(g).
2 Rule 716(j).


The views expressed in this document are solely the views of the author and not Martindale-Hubbell. This document is intended for informational purposes only and is not legal advice or a substitute for consultation with a licensed legal professional in a particular case or circumstance.

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