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Amnesty program for in-house counsel to obtain limited licenses begins Jan. 1

By Bethany Krajelis | Dec 2, 2013

Illinois-based corporate counsel who failed to get their required limited law licenses will soon be able to obtain them without the risk of discipline.

The Illinois Supreme Court announced late last month that these licenses will be available through a one-year amnesty program that is set to begin Jan. 1. Corporate counsel seeking to obtain limited law licenses through the new program must meet the existing requirements of Supreme Court Rule 716.

Adopted in 2004, Rule 716 allows corporate counsel not licensed in Illinois the chance to obtain a limited law license, which lets them act on behalf of their employers for all purposes as if actually licensed in this state.

This rule requires in-house counsel to be in good disciplinary standing, pass a background check, pay an annual registration fee, submit to the authority of the Illinois Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission (ARDC) and meet mandatory continuing legal education (MCLE) requirements imposed on all practicing attorneys.

Since 2004, the court’s release states that 828 corporate counsel have received limited law licenses under Rule 716. The release goes on to note, however, that the Association of Corporation Counsel “estimates that there are more than 9,600 in-house counsel in Illinois.”

“Presumably,” it adds, “a majority of in-house counsel are licensed in Illinois. Nevertheless, given the disparity between the number of Rule 716 licensed lawyers and the total number of in-house lawyers, it is likely that there are many who are neither Illinois-licensed or have a limited corporate license.”

The court’s release states that possible reasons in-house counsel have not obtained limited law licenses include a lack of awareness given that many come from jurisdictions that don’t have similar rules or a failure to meet the deadline to apply for these licenses.

Corporate counsel who take advantage of the amnesty program won’t have to pay overdue licensing fees or make up MCLE credits. The court's release also states that any previous failure to meet Rule 716’s requirements won’t be an issue for counsel seeking a law license or be grounds for attorney discipline.

In-house counsel wishing to participate in the amnesty program will have to pay the required $1,250 application fee under Rule 716, as well as a $1,250 late registration penalty for a total of $2,500.

The idea for the program stems came from a joint proposal of the Illinois Board of Admissions to the Bar and the ARDC. The Supreme Court approved the program through amendments to Rule 716 late last month.

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