FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions
Make a selection by clicking on a topic below.

Admission to the North Carolina State Bar
Admission - Swearing In
Client Security Fund
Closing a Law Practice
Continuing Legal Education (CLE)
Cy Pres/Class Action Residuals, Court Awards and Settlements
District Bars
Ethics
Fee Dispute Resolution
Grievance
IOLTA
Lawyer Assistance Program
Legal Malpractice Insurance
Membership
Professional Organizations
Pro Hac Vice
Publications (Ordering the Lawyer's Handbook and Journal)
Retirement
Specialization
Trust Accounting
Unauthorized Practice of Law

Admission to the North Carolina State Bar

Q: How can I become a member of the North Carolina State Bar?

Admission to the North Carolina State Bar is the responsibility of the North Carolina Board of Law Examiners. An application and information about admission may be obtained by calling the board at (919) 848-4229 or writing to the board at 5510 Six Forks, Suite 300, Raleigh NC 27609.

Admission - Swearing In

Q: I just received my letter from the Board of Law Examiners (BOLE), notifying me that I have passed the Bar exam.  What must I do before I begin practicing law?

You must wait until you receive your license from the BOLE, then take the oath of office and be sworn in as an attorney in open court by a justice or judge of any North Carolina state court before you may begin practicing law.

Q: What documents must I take to the admission ceremony?

You should take your law license and two blank copies of the oath of office form.

Q: How do I obtain an oath of office form?

The Board of Law Examiners supplies the oath forms to bar applicants. You may also print the oath form here.

Q: Where should I file the oath of office forms after being sworn in?

You should file one copy of the oath form with the clerk of court where you were sworn in and keep one copy for your files. You do not need to send a copy to the NC State Bar.

 Q: When can I get sworn in?

The bigger counties, such as Wake, Mecklenburg, Forsyth, and Guilford usually schedule mass swearing-in sessions at the courthouse in March and August of each year after the bar results come out. You can check with the trial court administrator or clerk of court to find out if there is such a ceremony planned in your area. If there is no group ceremony planned, or if you can't wait until one is held, you can arrange a private swearing in ceremony by calling the judge's chambers and scheduling an appointment.

Q: Do I have to bring a North Carolina attorney with me to introduce me to the court at the admissions ceremony?

This is not required by statute, but is often done as a matter of custom and, in some judicial districts, may be required by the judiciary. You should contact the clerk of court of the district where you would like to be sworn in to determine what will be required. If not required by the district judiciary and you don't know a North Carolina attorney who can introduce you, you may introduce yourself to the court.

Q: How soon after being admitted must I get sworn in?

You may be sworn in at any time after being admitted. North Carolina has no deadline by which successful bar applicants must take the oath of office. However, you may not practice law in North Carolina until you are sworn in.

Q: If I wait to get sworn in will I still have to pay the annual membership fees to the North Carolina State Bar?

Yes. You are an active member of the North Carolina State Bar as soon as you complete all the requirements for admission set forth by the Board of Law Examiners, even before you are sworn in. As an active member of the North Carolina State Bar you are required to pay the annual mandatory membership fees and complete the annual mandatory CLE requirements. For more information on these requirements and to learn how to petition to become an inactive member of the State Bar, see the Membership FAQ’s and Continuing Legal Education FAQ’s.

Q: May I be sworn in by telephone?

No. You must take the oath of office in person in open court.

Q: Can I get admitted to practice in the federal courts before I get sworn in to practice in the North Carolina state courts?

No. The federal courts in North Carolina require new lawyers to be admitted to the North Carolina courts before being admitted to practice in the federal courts. You should contact the clerk of the federal court where you wish to be admitted to find out how to apply for admission in the federal court system.

Client Security Fund

Q: What is the Client Security Fund?

The Client Security Fund was established by the North Carolina Supreme Court by order dated August 29, 1984. The fund is administered by a board of trustees appointed by the North Carolina State Bar Council. Its purpose is to reimburse, in whole or in part in appropriate cases and subject to the provisions and limitations of the Supreme Court's orders and State Bar rules, clients who have suffered financial loss as the result of dishonest conduct of lawyers engaged in the private practice of law in North Carolina.

Q: Where are the rules governing the administration of the Client Security Fund?

See 27 NCAC 1D, Section .1400

Q: Is a lawyer required to pay the Client Security Fund Assessment to maintain his or her active status with the State Bar?

Yes.

Q: What losses are reimbursable?

Reimbursable losses are losses of money or property that satisfy the following conditions:

(1) the dishonest conduct occurred on or after January 1, 1985;

(2) the loss was caused by dishonest conduct of an attorney acting as attorney for the applicant or in a fiduciary capacity for the benefit of the applicant customary to the private practice of law in the matter in which the loss arose; and

(3) the applicant has exhausted all viable means to collect the applicant's losses otherwise than from the fund. See 27 NCAC 1D, Rule .1401(b)(7).

Q: What losses are not reimbursable?

Certain losses are specifically declared by the rules to be non-reimbursable. See 27 NCAC 1D, Rule .1401(b)(8). They are:

(1) losses of a spouse, parent, grandparent, child, brother, sister, partner, associate, or employee of the attorney causing the loss;

(2) losses covered by any bond, security agreement, or insurance contract, to the extent covered;

(3) losses of any business entity with which the attorney or any person described in (1) above is an officer, director, shareholder, partner, joint venturer, promoter, or employee;

(4) losses for which reimbursement has otherwise been received from or paid by or on behalf of the attorney who committed the dishonest conduct; and

(5) losses in investment transactions in which there was neither a contemporaneous attorney/client relationship between the attorney and the applicant nor a contemporaneous fiduciary relationship between the attorney and the applicant.

Q: How much is reimbursed?

The fund only reimburses the actual amount embezzled or misappropriated by the attorney. It does not reimburse any related additional losses or damages, such as interest, fees paid to another attorney to represent the applicant against the attorney or before the Client Security Fund Board, penalties for late payment of taxes, and the like.

Q: Does the Client Security Fund Board pay all claims in full?

Any reimbursement by the fund is within the sole discretion of the board and not a matter of right. For any amount to be paid, the claim must first be shown to be one that is a reimbursable loss. Further, in deciding whether to pay any or all of a claim, the board may consider such things as the financial condition of the fund, any negligence of the applicant that contributed to the loss, the comparative hardship the applicant suffered because of the loss, the total amount of reimbursable losses in previous years for which complete reimbursement has not yet been made, the total assets of the fund, and the amount of insurance or other sources of funds available to compensate an applicant for a reimbursable loss.

Q: Are there dollar limits on reimbursements?

Yes. The fund does not reimburse otherwise reimbursable losses sustained by any one applicant as a result of dishonest conduct of one attorney in an amount exceeding $100,000.

Q: How are applications processed?

When a written application is filed, it is investigated by an investigator employed by the fund. When the investigation is complete, the application is placed on the agenda of a quarterly meeting of the Client Security Fund Board. A copy of the application is sent to the attorney who is alleged to have committed dishonest conduct. When the board meets, it may request testimony from the applicant or others having knowledge of the facts, and the attorney will be given an opportunity to be heard if requested. The application, investigation, reports, and hearing are confidential unless and until the board authorizes reimbursement or the attorney requests that the matter be made public. However, relevant information may be provided by the board to disciplinary committees of the North Carolina State Bar or anyone else to whom the council of the North Carolina State Bar authorizes release of information.

Closing a Law Practice

1. Complete and close as many files as possible.

2. Write to any client with an active file, advising them that you are unable to continue representing them and that they need to retain new counsel. Your letter should inform them about time limitations and time frames important to their case. The letter should explain how and where they can pick up their file and should give a time deadline for doing this. If possible, refer the client to another lawyer who may be able to handle the client’s case.

3. For any case that has a scheduled court date, deposition, or hearing, discuss with the client how to proceed. Where appropriate, request extensions, continuances, and resetting of hearing dates. Send written confirmations of these extensions, continuances, and resets to opposing counsel and to your client.

4. For any case before an administrative body or court, obtain the client's permission to submit a motion and order to withdraw as attorney of record.

5. For any court case where the client has chosen a new attorney, be certain that a Substitution of Counsel is filed.

6. Pick an appropriate date and check to see if all cases have a Motion and Order allowing your withdrawal as attorney of record or have a Substation of Attorney filed with the court.

7. Each client should either pick up their file (and sign a receipt acknowledging that they received them) or sign an authorization for you to release the file to their new attorney. Consider whether you should make and retain copies of file documents before releasing the file to your client or your client’s new counsel. You may not charge the client for your copy of the file. You are not required to give the client your notes or your incomplete work product.

8. Each client should be told where their closed file will be stored and who they should contact in order to retrieve the file. If a closed file is to be stored by another attorney, get the client's permission to allow the attorney to store the file for you and provide the client with the attorney's name, address, and phone number. Closed files may be destroyed without client consent if they have been closed for six years or more. (Check with your insurance carrier as they often have different retention requirements.) You should make a list of the files that you destroy and, of course, the method of destruction should protect client confidences. If a file has been closed for less than six years, you may only destroy it with the consent of the client. Originals of wills, powers of attorney, etc. may not be destroyed. They must be kept indefinitely, turned over to the client, or turned over to the court. See RPC 209 (Disposing of Closed Client Files).

9. Determine disposal options for computer equipment. Scrub computers of software, and firm and client information.

10. If you are a sole practitioner, ask the telephone company for your new phone number to be given out when your old number is called. This eliminates the problem created when a client calls your phone number, gets a recording stating that the number is disconnected, and does not know where else to turn for information. If you do not want calls forwarded to your home or new office, set up an answering machine.

11. Disburse funds held in your trust account to the clients to whom they belong with a final accounting. You can also deliver the funds to new legal counsel designated by a client. Close out your account. For questions concerning closing your trust account you may contact the State Bar at 919-828-4620.

12. Call the membership department at the North Carolina State Bar and update all membership records as to status and contact information. You may contact the membership department at 919-828-4620.

13. If you wish to obtain inactive status, you must complete a petition to be placed on inactive status. These petitions can be found on the Forms page of the NC State Bar website. The petition must be completed and received no later than December 30th in order to avoid fees for the next year. All petitions for inactive status are heard at the State Bar’s quarterly meetings. If you have questions you may contact the membership department at 919-828-4620.

14. Contact your malpractice carrier about necessary continued malpractice coverage.

Relevant Opinions
RPC 209 (Disposing of Closed Client Files)
RPC 234 (Electronic Storage of Client’s File)
RPC 133 (Recycling/shredding Office Paper)
RPC 178 (Release of Client’s File)

Also, please refer to this ethics article from the Journal.

Continuing Legal Education (CLE)

Please see FAQ's on the CLE website.

Cy Pres/Class Action Residuals, Court Awards and Settlements

For information, please visit the IOLTA website.

District Bars

For more information on District Bars, visit the District Bar page. 

Q: Am I required to be a member of a local district bar?

Yes. Every active member of the State Bar who resides in North Carolina must be a member of the judicial district bar where he/she resides or practices. The State Bar automatically assigns you to a local district bar based on your address on record with the State Bar unless you request a different district in a letter or email to the membership department.

Q: What if I reside and practice in two different judicial districts?
You may choose between the districts. You must notify the State Bar in writing if you elect to be a member of a district bar that is different from the district bar for your address on record with the State Bar. You may email, mail, or fax notice of district bar changes to the State Bar.

Email can be sent to kbeck@ncbar.gov

Mail can be sent to:
The North Carolina State Bar
Membership Department
PO Box 26088
Raleigh, NC 27611

Fax can be sent to
(919) 821-9168
Attn: Membership.

Q: Can I be a voting member of more than one judicial district bar?

No.  Every active member of the State Bar who resides in North Carolina must be a member of the judicial district bar where he/she resides or practices. You may only be a voting member of the judicial district bar on record for you with the State Bar. If you desire to be a non-voting member of another judicial district bar, you must contact that district bar to see if it accepts non-voting members.

Q: What if I do not reside or maintain an office in North Carolina?

You are not required to belong to a local district bar or pay district bar dues.

Q: Are judicial district bar dues mandatory?

Yes. If your local judicial district bar charges dues you are required to pay them. Active State Bar members who reside in North Carolina must be members of a local judicial district bar. NCGS §84-18.

Q: What if I join a different district after paying the district bar dues?

If you join a district bar after the beginning of its fiscal year, you are exempt from paying the dues for that fiscal year only if you demonstrate that you paid district bar dues to the previous district bar AND the fiscal year runs conterminously with the fiscal year of the new district bar for a period of 3 months or more.

If you change your district bar affiliation, you must notify both the district you are leaving and the district you are joining.  Please see the list of local Judicial District Bar Officers for contact information.

Q: What judicial district bar do I belong to?

To view the District Bar Map, click here.  If you are still unsure of your affiliation, contact the membership department at the State Bar.

Q: Where are the rules governing the administration of judicial district bars?                  

To view the regulations governing district bars, see the following Rules and Regulations:

Subchapter A, Section .0800, Election and Appointment of State Bar Councilors

Subchapter A, Section .0900, Organization of the Judicial District Bars – District bars must adopt bylaws and submit bylaws to the State Bar Council for approval

Subchapter A, Section .1000, Model Bylaws

Subchapter B, Section .0200, Rules Governing Judicial District Grievance Committees

Subchapter D, Section .0700, Fee Dispute Resolution

Q: Who are the officers of my judicial district bar?
           
To view the District Bar Officer’s Directory, click here.

Q: Who is the Councilor(s) of my judicial district bar?
           
To view the District Bar Councilor’s Directory, click here.

Q:  What is the role of the judicial district bar and its officers?

To view the essential duties of District Bar officers, click here.

Ethics

For further explanation of legal ethics, please see
How the State Bar Rules on Questions of Legal Ethics

Q: How do I get a question of legal ethics answered?

If the question relates to your own prospective conduct, you may telephone the State Bar at (919) 828-4620. There are three lawyers on the staff who answer ethics questions. If the question relates to the conduct of another lawyer, you must write to the State Bar for a response and send a copy of the letter to the lawyer whose conduct is at issue. This will give the other lawyer an opportunity to comment upon the inquiry. If the question relates to past conduct (your own or that of another lawyer), the staff may decline to answer. Also, inquiries that involve novel or controversial questions of legal ethics will not be answered over the telephone. You will be asked to put the question in writing and mail it to the Ethics Committee for its consideration at its next quarterly meeting.

Q: If I get an opinion over the phone from a State Bar staff lawyer, may I rely upon the advice I receive? Is the opinion binding on the State Bar?

Opinions given over the phone are informal. Oral ethics opinions provide feedback and guidance to lawyers who are trying to deal with difficult ethical dilemmas. Although an oral opinion is not a formal ethics ruling because it cannot be reviewed and approved by the Ethics Committee, you may rely upon the advice you receive. If a grievance is subsequently filed against you, the fact that you sought the informal opinion of the State Bar and acted accordingly will be evidence of a good faith effort to comply with the Revised Rules of Professional Conduct.

Q: If I seek ethics advice, either over the telephone or via email, is the information provided and the advice received confidential?

Yes. The Bar's program for providing informal ethics advisories to inquiring attorneys is a desigated lawyers' assistance program and information received by designated staff counsel from an attorney seeking an informal ethics advisory shall be confidential information pursuant to Rule 1.6(c) of the Rules of Professional Conduct. Such information may only be disclosed as allowed by Rule 1.6(b), and as necessary to respond to a false or misleading statement made about an informal ethics advisory. In addition, if an attorney's response to a grievance proceeding relies in whole or in part upon the receipt of an informal ethics advisory, confidential information may be disclosed to Bar counsel, the Grievance Committee, or other appropriate disciplinary authority.

Q: When is an ethics question sent to the full Ethics Committee for a response?

Only written inquiries are sent to the Ethics Committee. If your inquiry involves the conduct of another lawyer, you will be asked to reduce the inquiry to writing for submission to the full committee. Questions involving matters of first impression or controversy are always sent to the full committee.

Q: Where do I find the rules for the procedures of the Ethics Committee for ruling on questions of legal ethics?

See 27 NCAC 1D, Section .0100.

Q: How do I comment on a proposed ethics opinion published in the State Bar Journal or on this website?

Send a letter to the Ethics Committee at PO Box 25908, Raleigh, NC 27611, or send an e-mail. All letters of comment received prior to the next meeting of the Ethics Committee are provided to the members of the committee for consideration. Letters of comment should be sent as soon as possible after the publication of the proposed opinion to facilitate their inclusion in the materials mailed to the members of the Ethics Committee prior to the meeting.

Q: May I attend a meeting of the Ethics Committee? If so, may I comment on an ethics inquiry or a proposed opinion?

All meetings of the Ethics Committee are public. The committee meets on a quarterly basis in conjunction with the State Bar Council's quarterly meetings in January, April, July, and October. Call the State Bar for the date and location of each meeting. At the meeting of the committee, if you are recognized by the chairperson, you will be given the floor to comment briefly on a proposed opinion or new inquiry.

Q: If I send a written inquiry to the Ethics Committee, will it be kept confidential?

No. Your inquiry will become part of the records of the State Bar. As a state agency, most records of the State Bar are public. You may want to put your inquiry in a hypothetical format to avoid improper disclosure of confidential client information.

Q: Are there any limitations on the types of ethics inquiries that I may submit to the Bar?

Yes. An opinion will not be provided if the material facts of the inquiry are in dispute or the inquiry requires an interpretation of law rather than legal ethics. A written inquiry that discloses a possible violation of the Revised Rules of Professional Conduct may be referred to the Grievance Committee of the State Bar for investigation. If an oral inquiry discloses a possible violation of the Revised Rules, the caller may be encouraged to report the matter to the State Bar. Inquiries relative to a conflict of interest that is the subject of a motion to disqualify pending before a tribunal will not be answered unless the tribunal requests the opinion of the State Bar.

Q: Are the formal ethics opinions of the State Bar binding upon the members of the North Carolina State Bar?

While ethics opinions do not themselves have the force of law, they are regarded as definitive interpretations of the Revised Rules of Professional Conduct by the North Carolina State Bar Council. As such, ethics opinions are often the basis upon which decisions are made by the Grievance Committee in regard to matters of alleged professional misconduct and by the Disciplinary Hearing Commission in regard to formal charges of professional misconduct. As final decisions of the North Carolina State Bar Council, ethics opinions are appealable under the terms of the Administrative Procedures Act to the Superior Court of Wake County.

North Carolina lawyers should regard the State Bar's ethics opinions as binding as a matter of professionalism. Although there is often disagreement as to conclusions reached by the Ethics Committee and the council, a lawyer who values his or her reputation as a true professional would never intentionally disregard an ethics opinion. Rather, such a lawyer should avail himself or herself of existing procedures to seek reconsideration of an opinion with which he or she disagrees.

Q: When does a proposed ethics opinion become a final opinion of the State Bar Council?

An ethics opinion is not final until it is approved by the State Bar Council. This usually occurs upon motion of the Ethics Committee at the quarterly meeting immediately following the publication of the proposed opinion. Proposed ethics opinions are published in the State Bar Journal after every quarterly meeting of the State Bar Council. If written comments or requests to be heard are received about a proposed opinion, it is reconsidered by the Ethics Committee at its next quarterly meeting. The committee may decide to revise the proposed opinion and republish it in the Journal for further comment or it may decide that the proposed opinion is the proper response to the inquiry and request that the council approve the opinion as published. A proposed opinion may go through the reconsideration process several times.

Fee Dispute Resolution

Q: When is a lawyer required to participate in the State Bar's fee dispute resolution program?

Rule 1.5(f) of the Revised Rules of Professional Conduct requires a lawyer with a dispute with a client over a legal fee to notify the client of the North Carolina State Bar's program of fee dispute resolution at least 30 days prior to initiating a legal proceeding to collect the disputed fee.

Q: When is a legal fee in "dispute?"

A fee is in dispute if the client questions or objects to the amount billed. Also, if a client fails to pay the bill, it is assumed that the fee is disputed unless the client affirms the obligation in writing or verbally. If a client pays by a check that is subsequently returned for insufficient funds, it is assumed that the client has affirmed the obligation and the lawyer is not required to notify the client of the fee dispute resolution program.

Q: What are the notification requirements to a client relative to the fee dispute resolution program prior to initiating suit to collect a legal fee?

The client must be notified of the right to participate in the fee dispute resolution program at least 30 days before filing suit against the client to collect the fee. See Rule 1.5(f) of the Revised Rules of Professional Conduct. A sample notice letter may be found on the Forms page of this website.

Q: May a lawyer notify a client of the fee dispute resolution program even though she does not intend to sue the client to collect the fee?

Yes. Although a lawyer does not ultimately intend to sue a client to collect a fee if the client fails to pay, a lawyer may nevertheless seek the client's participation in the fee dispute resolution program in an effort to collect the fee or some portion thereof.

Grievance

Q: Where do I find the rules governing procedures of the State Bar's Grievance Committee and of the Disciplinary Hearing Commission?

See 27 NCAC 1B, Section .0100.

Q: Where do I find the rules governing the procedures of local grievance committees?

See 27 NCAC 1B, Section .0200.

Q: If I get a letter of notice that a grievance has been filed against me, can I get more time to respond?

You can usually get more time to respond. To request additional time, call the North Carolina State Bar at (919) 828-4620 and ask to speak to the staff attorney assigned to your grievance. The staff attorney assigned to your grievance is identified in the last paragraph of the letter of notice in boldface type. The staff attorney is ordinarily not the person who signed the letter of notice. The staff attorney has authority to grant additional time to respond if the circumstances warrant.

Q: I just received notice that a grievance has been filed against me with the State Bar. Who can I talk to about the complaint?

If you have a question about a complaint that has been filed against you, call the State Bar at (919) 828-4620 and ask to speak to the staff attorney assigned to the complaint. The staff attorney assigned to your grievance is identified in the last paragraph of the letter of notice in boldface type. The staff attorney is ordinarily not the person who signed the letter of notice. If you don't know the staff attorney's name, the receptionist will assist you.

Q: If I get a letter of notice of a grievance, does it mean that the State Bar believes everything that the complainant said about me?

No. A letter of notice notifies the respondent lawyer that a grievance has been filed, summarizes the allegations of the grievance, and requires the lawyer to respond. A letter of notice is not an accusation by the State Bar against you. However, you must respond timely to the letter of notice. Failure to respond timely may be an independent basis for discipline. See 27 NCAC 1B, Rule .0112(c).

Q: Do I need a lawyer to prepare my response to a grievance?

That is a decision you must make. In deciding whether you need the assistance of counsel, you should consider the complexity and seriousness of the allegations. The staff attorney assigned to your grievance can provide the names of lawyers who regularly handle cases before the Grievance Committee and the Disciplinary Hearing Commission.

Q: As a part of my defense against a grievance, may I testify before the Grievance Committee?

No. Proceedings of the Grievance Committee are closed to the public. The committee decides all cases upon written submissions and does not take testimony. However, the Grievance Committee can subpoena a lawyer whose written response was inadequate to provide a full response at a quarterly Grievance Committee meeting.

Q: Why do I have to answer this letter of notice that a grievance has been filed against me?

As a member of the State Bar, you must comply with the State Bar's rules. Rule .0112(c) of the Discipline and Disability Rules (27 NCAC 1B, Section .0100) states that a lawyer must respond to a letter of notice within 15 days and that the response must be "a full and fair disclosure of all the facts and circumstances pertaining to the alleged misconduct."

Q: How long will it take the Grievance Committee to rule on a grievance?

The time it takes the Grievance Committee to rule on a grievance depends upon the complexity of the case. Cases in which the Office of Counsel recommends action other than dismissal are decided by the full Grievance Committee at quarterly meetings in January, April, July, and October. Grievances in which the Office of Counsel recommends dismissal because there is not sufficient evidence to prove a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct are considered throughout the quarter by the chairman and, in some cases, another committee member.

Q: Why are some grievances sent to judicial district grievance committees for investigation and not others?

Not all judicial districts have grievance committees. Also, whether a file is sent to a judicial district grievance committee depends upon the nature of the complaint and the caseload of the local committee. Grievances involving allegations of criminal misconduct or financial wrongdoing are never sent to judicial district grievance committees.

Q: If I am required by Rule 8.3 of the Rules of Professional Conduct to report another lawyer for a possible violation of the Rules, will the accused lawyer be told that I made the repost?

You may request that your identity be held in confidence and, generally, the State Bar is able to comply with this request. However, the State Bar may be required to reveal the identity of a reporting lawyer to the accused lawyer if such disclosure is required by law, by considerations of due process, or where identification of the reporting lawyer is essential to the preparation of the lawyer's defense to the grievance or formal disciplinary complaint. See 27 NCAC 1B, Rule .0111(d).

Because of the State Bar's confidentiality rules, a lawyer who reports alleged misconduct of another member of the Bar but who is not identified as the complaining party is not advised of the progress of the investigation or outcome of the grievance.

Q: Can I be disciplined for violation of a formal ethics opinion of the State Bar?

Lawyers are not charged with violations of ethics opinions. Rather, they are charged with violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct. Ethics opinions do not themselves have the force of law. However, they are regarded as definitive interpretations by the State Bar Council of the Rules of Professional Conduct. As such, the Grievance Committee and the Disciplinary Hearing Commission rely upon ethics opinions in deciding whether a lawyer violated the Rules of Professional Conduct.

IOLTA

For information on the IOLTA Program, please visit their website.

Lawyer Assistance Program

Click here for information concerning the Lawyer Assistance Program.

Legal Malpractice Insurance

Q: What information is available about a North Carolina lawyer's legal malpractice insurance coverage?

Effective January 1, 2010, North Carolina lawyers are no longer required to inform the State Bar as to whether they maintain legal malpractice insurance. The only way to obtain this information is to check with your attorney.

Membership

1: Where do I find the rules relating to membership in the North Carolina State Bar?

See 27 NCAC 1A, Section .0200 and NCAC 1D, Sections .0900 and .1000.

2: Is membership in the North Carolina State Bar mandatory?

Yes. Once you are licensed by the NC Board of Law Examiners, by passing the bar exam or by comity, you automatically become a member of the State Bar. To be entitled to practice North Carolina law, you must be an active member of the State Bar. Also, you must take the oath of office and be sworn in as an attorney before you may begin practicing law. For more information, see Admission – Swearing In FAQ's.

3: What am I required to do to remain an active member of the North Carolina State Bar?

Pay the annual membership fees, fulfill the CLE and IOLTA requirements, and comply with the Rules of Professional Conduct. If you are a North Carolina resident, you must also maintain membership in the local district bar where you work or reside.

4: How much are the mandatory annual membership fees?

For 2014, the annual fees are $325. This includes the membership dues ($300) and the Client Security Fund assessment ($25). The amount of the dues is established each October by the State Bar Council pursuant to the authority granted to the council by the General Assembly in NCGS §84-34.

5: When are the mandatory annual membership fees due?

An invoice for the subsequent calendar year is mailed to every active member of the State Bar on or before December 1 of each year, followed by additional reminders. The completed invoice and payment are due January 1 but are not considered late if received/postmarked on or before June 30.

6: What if I do not pay the membership fees by June 30?

You will owe a late fee of $30. Continued failure to pay any part of the membership fees may result in the suspension of your North Carolina law license. See 27 NCAC 1D, Rule .0903.

If you are suspended, you will have to file a reinstatement petition with the membership department of the State Bar. (For more information on reinstatement, see Membership FAQ #16 below.)

7: What is the Client Security Fund assessment?

The Client Security Fund was established by the North Carolina Supreme Court by order dated August 29, 1984. The fund is administered by a board of trustees appointed by the State Bar Council. Its purpose is to reimburse, in whole or in part in appropriate cases and subject to the provisions and limitations of the Supreme Court’s orders and State Bar rules, clients who have suffered financial loss as a result of dishonest conduct of lawyers engaged in the private practice of law in North Carolina.

The amount of the Client Security Fund assessment is set by the North Carolina Supreme Court depending on the needs of the fund.

8: What is the Judicial Surcharge?

In the 2005 session of the General Assembly, G.S. 84-34 was amended to impose a $50 surcharge upon each active member of the State Bar who is liable for the annual membership fees. The amended statute makes the State Bar responsible for collecting the surcharge and for remitting all proceeds to the State Board of Elections to support the Public Campaign Fund from which financial assistance is made available to candidates for appellate judicial office. The Board of Elections also publishes a Voter Guide for public information. Starting in 2010, lawyers may designate that their surcharge be spent only on the Voter Guide. The designation is made on the membership fees invoice that is returned to the State Bar or when paying the membership fees online.

9: Once I am licensed by the NC Board of Law Examiners by passing the examination when will I become a member of the North Carolina State Bar and owe membership fees for the first time?

Your membership with the State Bar is automatic upon licensure. The membership fees are waived for the calendar year in which you are admitted by exam. You will owe membership fees for the calendar year following the year of your admission to the State Bar and continuously on an annual basis as long as your membership status is “active”. See NCGS §84-34 and 27 NCAC 1A, Rule .0203(c).

10: Once I am licensed by the NC Board of Law Examiners by comity when will I become a member of the North Carolina State Bar and owe membership fees for the first time?

Your membership with the State Bar is automatic upon licensure. You will be invoiced for membership fees for the calendar year in which you are admitted by comity, regardless of when during the year you are admitted. The State Bar is prohibited by law from waiving or prorating the membership fees. See NCGS §84-34 and 27 NCAC 1A, Rule .0203(c).

11: Once I receive my license from the North Carolina Board of Law Examiners when will I receive my North Carolina State Bar ID number?

The State Bar must receive certification of your licensure from the NC Board of Law Examiners (BOLE) before you can be assigned a State Bar ID number. Upon receipt of your certification from the BOLE the membership department will mail your State Bar ID card (and invoice if admitted by comity) along with instructions for completing the on-line “new attorney registration” process. Please make sure to view all of the important on-line new attorney information.

12: If I obtain an exemption from the continuing legal education requirements, am I also exempt from the obligation to pay the North Carolina State Bar membership fees?

No. All active members are obligated to pay the annual State Bar membership fees, unless eligible for an exemption per 27 NCAC 1A, Rule .0203.

13: If I am an active member of the North Carolina State Bar but I do not practice North Carolina law, what should I do to be relieved of membership fees and CLE obligations?

You must petition to become an inactive member of the State Bar to be relieved of membership fees and CLE obligations. You must complete and file a Petition for Transfer to Inactive Status with the membership department of the State Bar. See 27 NCAC 1D, Rule .0901.

14: How do I retire or resign from the North Carolina State Bar?

You must petition to become an inactive member of the State Bar. See Membership FAQ #13 above.

15: I have been certified as a specialist by the NC State Bar Board of Legal Specialization. If I change my membership status to inactive, will I lose my specialty certification?

Yes, if you remain inactive for an entire calendar year. To retain your certification, you must remain substantially involved in the specialty practice area. Substantial involvement is defined differently for each specialty but, generally, it requires that the specialist devote no less than 25% of a full-time practice to the specialty every calendar year. Check the recertification standards for your specialty by visiting the specialization website.  

16: May I still hold myself out as a board certified specialist if I change my membership status to inactive?

No, during any period of inactivity, you must discontinue the active practice of law. Any statements or representations you make about yourself may not imply that you have an active law license. 

17: Is there a fee for becoming an inactive member of the North Carolina State Bar?

No. But you must pay all fees owed to the State Bar at the time you petition for inactive status.

18: How do I return to active membership in the North Carolina State Bar after being granted inactive status or from an administrative suspension?

You must petition to be reinstated as an active member of the State Bar. You must complete and file the appropriate reinstatement petition (determined by the length of time you have been inactive or suspended) with the membership department of the State Bar (petitions and instructions available under the “Membership” heading on the Forms page).The reinstatement petition must be accompanied by the appropriate reinstatement fee, the membership fees for the year in which you seek reinstatement, and any other fees or obligations owed to the State Bar or the Continuing Legal Education department. See 27 NCAC 1D, Rule .0902.

19. Am I required to be a member of a local district bar?

Yes. Every active member of the State Bar who resides in North Carolina must be a member of the judicial district bar where he/she resides or works. The State Bar automatically assigns you to a local district bar based on your address on record with the State Bar unless you request a different district in a letter or email to the membership department. For more information on the district bars see the District Bar FAQ’s.

20: How do I obtain a certificate of good standing?

Complete and submit the Attorney Document Request Form and appropriate fees to the address on the form.

NOTE: Make sure you need the certificate from the State Bar and not the “highest court” of the state. If you need a certificate from the “highest court”, contact the Supreme Court Clerk’s Office at 919-831-5700.

21: How do I obtain a disciplinary history letter?

Complete and submit the Attorney Document Request Form to the address on the form. There is no charge for the letter.

22: How do I obtain a copy of my bar application?

Complete and submit the Attorney Document Request Form and appropriate fees to the address on the form.

23: How do I obtain a new State Bar ID card?

All newly admitted lawyers are issued a State Bar ID card upon admission.  There will be a charge of $10 for a second Bar ID card requested within a 12-month period. Call the membership department at 919-828-4620 for assistance.

24: How do I change my name in the North Carolina State Bar records?

Complete and submit the Attorney Name Change Request Form to the address on the form.

25: How do I change my address, telephone, fax, and email contact information in the North Carolina State Bar records?

You can use the Member Login section of the State Bar website. You must be a registered user to access your account. If you are not a registered user, click on “First Time Registration” on the Member Login page and follow the instructions. You may also email, mail or fax address change requests.

Email can be sent to bmclamb@ncbar.gov

Mail can be sent to:
The North Carolina State Bar
Membership Department
PO Box 26088
Raleigh, NC 27611

Fax can be sent to:
(919) 821-9168
Attn: Membership.

Professional Organizations

Q: Where do I find the rules of the North Carolina State Bar relating to professional organizations?

See 27 NCAC 1E, Section .0100.

Q: What professional organizations are required to register with the State Bar?

Professional associations, professional corporations, and professional limited liability companies organized for the practice of law are required to register with the State Bar. See NCGS §55B-12 and §57C-2-01(c).

Q: How do I register a professional organization with the State Bar?

Prior to filing the organization's articles with the Secretary of State, you must file the articles along with an application for registration with the membership department of the North Carolina State Bar, and pay a registration fee of $50.

Applications can be found on the Forms page under the Professional Organizations heading.

Q: After a professional organization is registered with the State Bar, how is the registration maintained?

In May of each year, an application for renewal of certificate of registration will be mailed to the address of the professional organization as it appears in the records of the State Bar. The application for renewal must be completed and returned to the State Bar together with a renewal fee of $25 by June 30th.

Q: Where do I find the rules of the State Bar for interstate and international law firms?

See 27 NCAC 1E, Section .0200.

Q: Are all interstate and international law firms required to register with the North Carolina State Bar?

Any law firm or professional organization that maintains offices in North Carolina and one or more other jurisdictions must obtain a certificate of registration as an interstate or international law firm from the State Bar unless all of the lawyers associated with the law firm or professional organization are licensed to practice law in North Carolina.

Q: How do I register an interstate or international law firm with the State Bar?

You must file a registration statement with the membership department of the State Bar and pay a $500 registration fee.

Applications can be found on the Forms page under the Professional Organizations heading.

Q: After an interstate or international law firm is registered with the State Bar, how is the registration maintained?

In November of each year, an interstate/international law firm renewal will be mailed to the address of the interstate/international law firm as it appears in the records of the State Bar. The renewal certificate must be completed and returned to the State Bar together with a renewal fee of $500 by December 31st.

Q: May I operate a law firm under a trade name?

Yes, provided there is a determination by the State Bar that the name is not potentially misleading and the trade name is registered with the membership department of the State Bar.  See Rule 7.5(a) of the Revised Rules of Professional Conduct.

The trade name registration form can be found on the Forms page under the Trade Names heading.

Click here to search the trade names directory.
 

Pro Hac Vice

1: Where do I find the rules of the North Carolina State Bar relating to pro hac vice registration requirements?

See 27 NCAC Subchapter 1H, Section .0100.

2: Which North Carolina General Statute sets forth the requirements for pro hac vice admission in North Carolina?

G.S. 84-4.1

3: Who is required to file a registration form?

The North Carolina lawyer (and member of the North Carolina State Bar) who acts as the out-of-state lawyer's sponsor in the motion for admission pro hac vice.

4: When must the sponsoring North Carolina lawyer file a registration form?

A pro hac vice registration form must be filed by the responsible North Carolina lawyer within 30 days of the entry of the pro hac vice admission order.

5: Can the North Carolina State Bar help me find a lawyer to serve as resident North Carolina counsel in the motion for limited admission as required by G.S. 84-4.1(5) and to also file the registration statement with the State Bar?

No, the North Carolina State Bar cannot help you find a lawyer because of its role as the agency that regulates the legal profession in North Carolina, but assistance can be obtained from the North Carolina Bar Association's lawyer referral service at (919) 677-8574.

6: Where can I find a copy of the required registration form?

You can click here to download the registration form. A separate registration form is required for each case. If there are multiple out-of-state attorneys admitted in the same case, please complete a separate form for each attorney.

7: What must be included with the registration form?

Along with the registration form, the sponsoring lawyer must send copies of the pro hac vice motion and order, evidence of payment of the $25 fee to the clerk of court (with the filing of the motion), or a check for $25, and a statement of tax reporting from the out-of-state attorney.

8: What is a statement of tax reporting?

The out-of-state lawyer should provide the following signed statement (original or photocopy will be acceptable): "Regarding the matters identified in items 3 & 4 of the Pro Hac Vice Registration Statement, I, [out-of-state attorney's name], verify that I will report any income earned to the North Carolina Department of Revenue if required to do so by law."

Click here to read a Journal article about state taxation for pro hac vice attorneys.

9: How do I pay the fees associated with a pro hac vice motion?

When filing a pro hac vice motion with a district or superior court of the North Carolina General Courts of Justice or the NC Court of Appeals, a fee of $225 should be collected by the clerk of court. The clerk will remit $25 of this fee to the Administrative Office of the Courts for ultimate transmission to the State Bar in satisfaction of the payment required by G.S. 84-4.1(7). Payment to the clerk may be documented with a receipt or by providing the check number and date of the check.

The NC Administrative Office of the Courts has determined that there is no separate, additional $20 motion fee. However, if more than one lawyer applies for admission in the same motion, $225 is owed for each lawyer seeking Pro Hac Vice admission.

If the fee is not paid to a clerk of court (because the clerk fails to collect it or the matter is filed in an administrative tribunal), a $25 check or money order, payable to the North Carolina State Bar, should be mailed to the State Bar with the registration form. A $200 check or money order, payable to the Administrative Office of the Courts, should be mailed to PO Box 2448, Raleigh, NC 27602, Attention: Kesha Howell. Please enclose a letter to the AOC with the case number and the name of the body before which the attorney will appear. No other paperwork should be mailed to the AOC.

10: Do I need to notify the State Bar when the case concludes?

Yes. Please send a letter including the case name and number, out-of-state attorney name, sponsoring attorney name, and the disposition of the case.

11: Is registration required for pro hac vice admission to a federal court?

No.

12: Is there a rule governing limited practice of out-of state attorneys at the appellate level?

Yes. Rule 33(d) of the NC Rules of Appellate Procedure outlines the procedures that must be followed when an out-of-state attorney seeks admission to an appellate court.

13: If already admitted pro hac vice at the trial court level, is registration required in conjunction with pro hac vice admission in a case in the NC Court of Appeals?

Yes. The North Carolina sponsoring attorney must update the registration by filing an Update Form with the North Carolina State Bar within 30 days of a pro hac vice order issued by the North Carolina Court of Appeals.

The NC Court of Appeals supervises its own docket and has the authority to determine whether out-of-state counsel will be allowed to appear before it. Therefore, regardless of a prior order of the trial court, the NC Court of Appeals requires out-of-state counsel to apply for admission to practice before it.

14: If not already admitted pro hac vice at the trial court level, is registration required in conjunction with pro hac vice admission in a case before the NC Court of Appeals?

Yes, the North Carolina sponsoring attorney is responsible for filing a complete Pro Hac Vice Registration Form with the North Carolina State Bar.

15: If already admitted pro hac vice by the NC Court of Appeals, does the registration have to be updated if the case is appealed to the North Carolina Supreme Court?

Yes. The North Carolina sponsoring attorney must update the registration by filing an Update Form with the North Carolina State Bar within 30 days of a pro hac vice order issued by the North Carolina Supreme Court.

Effective October 1, 2009, pursuant to Rule 33 of the NC Rules of Appellate Procedure, out-of-state counsel must file a motion for admission pro hac vice to the Supreme Court but does not have to pay the fee again.

16: If not already admitted pro hac vice at the trial court level or by the North Carolina Court of Appeals, is registration required in conjunction with pro hac vice admission in a case before the North Carolina Supreme Court?

Yes, the North Carolina sponsoring attorney is responsible for filing a complete Pro Hac Vice Registration Form with the North Carolina State Bar.

17: May a lawyer licensed to practice in another state but not in North Carolina provide legal services free of charge to indigent persons?

Yes, a lawyer licensed to practice in another state may obtain an order from the North Carolina State Bar Council permitting the lawyer to provide legal services to indigent persons on a pro bono basis under the supervision of a NC lawyer employed by a nonprofit corporation qualified to render legal services pursuant to N.C.G.S. 84-5.1. See 27 NCAC 1D, Rule .0905 for the requirements of the petition to the council and accompanying information.

18: Does an out-of-state lawyer have to be admitted PHV to take a deposition in North Carolina for a case that is filed in a state where the lawyer is licensed?

Rule 5.5(c)(2)(B) of the North Carolina Rules of Professional Conduct provides that a lawyer admitted to practice in another jurisdiction, but not in North Carolina, does not engage in the unauthorized practice of law in North Carolina if the lawyer acts with respect to a matter that arises out of or is otherwise reasonably related to the lawyer's representation of a client in a jurisdiction in which the lawyer is admitted to practice.

If a subpoena from a North Carolina court is necessary to compel a witness to appear at a deposition, the out-of-state lawyer should contact the clerk of court for the North Carolina judicial district in which the deposition will be taken for instructions on how to obtain a subpoena. If the judicial district requires an action to be filed in North Carolina but does not require the out-of-state lawyer to be admitted pro hac vice, a North Carolina lawyer may file the action and obtain the subpoena; the out-of-state lawyer may then take the deposition of the witness without being admitted pro hac vice. If the judicial district requires the out-of-state lawyer to be admitted pro hac vice, the necessary motion must be filed and the sponsoring North Carolina lawyer must register with the State Bar.

19: Is the sponsoring North Carolina lawyer (who provides the statement required by G.S. 84-4.1(5)) required to be present, with the out-of-state lawyer admitted pro hac vice, at all court proceedings including depositions?

This is a question of law that cannot be answered by the State Bar. Please refer to G.S. 84-4.1(5) and In re Smith, 301 N.C. 621, 272 S.E. 2d 834 (1981)(“A general appearance by local counsel is required by G.S. 84-4.1.”) for guidance. If in doubt, the North Carolina lawyer should seek instruction from the court at the time of the entry of the order allowing limited practice by the out-of-state lawyer.

20: What steps need to be taken if the North Carolina sponsoring lawyer wishes to withdraw from a case?

A North Carolina lawyer wishing to withdraw from a case in which he has agreed to be the sponsoring lawyer for an out-of-state lawyer appearing pro hac vice should do the following:

1. File a motion with the court expressing the desire to withdraw and asking the court to approve suitable substitute NC counsel as required in G.S. 84-4.1 (5).

2. Provide to the North Carolina State Bar a copy of the order allowing withdrawal from the case. If a separate order is entered allowing the appearance of a new NC sponsoring lawyer, please provide that as well.

3. The new NC sponsoring lawyer must file an Update Form for New Sponsoring Attorney with the North Carolina State Bar.

21: What steps need to be taken if the out-of-state lawyer wishes to withdraw from a case?

If the out-of-state lawyer wishes to withdraw from a case, a motion to withdraw must be filed with the court. If the motion is granted, the NC lawyer should provide a copy of the order to the North Carolina State Bar.

If admission pro hac vice is sought for a substitute out-of-state lawyer, the NC sponsoring lawyer and the out-of-state lawyer must follow the procedure set forth in G.S. 84-4.1. A pro hac vice registration form must be filed with the State Bar by the responsible North Carolina lawyer within 30 days of the entry of a new pro hac vice admission order.

Additional Information-Review the Guidelines for Attorneys Licensed in Other Jurisdictions but Seeking to Work in North Carolina.

Publications (Ordering the Lawyer's Handbook and Journal)

Q: How do I purchase a copy of the Lawyer's Handbook?

The Lawyer's Handbook can now be downloaded for free. There will be a very limited number of hard copies available for purchase. You can send a check or money order for $14.95 to the North Carolina State Bar, Attn: Handbook, PO Box 25908, Raleigh, NC 27611. Please enclose a note with your name and address and what publication you are requesting.

Q: How often is the Lawyer's Handbook published?

The Lawyer's Handbook is published annually, usually in April.

Q: What is contained in the Lawyer's Handbook?

The Lawyer's Handbook contains the most referenced provisions of the Administrative Rules, Rules of Professional Conduct, Ethics Opinions, Index to Ethics Opinions, and Trust Accounting and IOLTA FAQs.

Q: How do I subscribe to the North Carolina State Bar Journal?

You can send a check or money order in the amount of $10.68 payable to the North Carolina State Bar. Please enclose a note with your name and address and what publication you are requesting. Mail to: North Carolina State Bar, Attn: Membership, PO Box 25908, Raleigh, NC 27611.

Q: How often is the Journal published?

The Journal is published quarterly—each March, June, September, and December.

Q: What if I want to subscribe to the Journal mid-year?

Mid-year subscriptions are charged on a prorated basis. Please contact the Membership Department at (919) 828-4620 for more information.

Q: How much does it cost to purchase an individual copy of the Journal?

Individual copies of the Journal may be purchased at the rate of $5.34 for each issue. Please enclose a note with your name and address and what publication you are requesting. Mail to: North Carolina State Bar, Attn: Publications, PO Box 25908, Raleigh, NC 27611.

Retirement

Q: What must I do if I intend to cease the practice of law and would like to be relieved of the dues and CLE requirements of membership in the North Carolina State Bar?

You must petition to become an inactive member of the State Bar.

How to petition for inactive status:

Complete and file a Petition for Transfer to Inactive Status with the membership department of the State Bar. See 27 NCAC 1D, Rule .0901.
The petition must be reviewed by the Administrative Committee and approved by the State Bar Council. The committee and the council meet quarterly in January, April, July, and October of each year. The dates of the meetings can be found here. Submit the petition at least 30 days prior to the quarterly meeting of the State Bar Council at which you are requesting the council to take action on the petition.

Keep a copy of your petition for your records. If your petition is received 30 days prior to the meeting, you will receive confirmation (if you list an e-mail address on your petition you may receive correspondence via e-mail) that your petition was received by the NC State Bar.

The petition must be completed and received no later than December 30th in order to avoid the membership fee for the next year.

Mail the petition and any supporting documentation to:
NC State Bar
Membership Department
PO Box 26088
Raleigh, NC 27611

Following the State Bar quarterly meeting, if your request for inactive status is granted by the State Bar Council, an inactive order will be mailed to the address you provide on the petition.

Q: What fees must be paid before becoming an inactive member of the North Carolina State Bar?

There is no fee for becoming an inactive member of the NC State Bar, but you must pay all fees owed to the State Bar at the time you petition for inactive status, including the entire mandatory membership fee and the Client Security Fund assessment (payable to the NC State Bar) for the year in which you file the petition.

The membership fee invoice for each calendar year is mailed to every active member of the State Bar in December of the preceding year. The completed invoice and payment are due January 1, but are not considered late if received/postmarked on or before June 30.

Any outstanding CLE fees must be paid before inactive status is granted.

Q: When does the annual CLE credit hour requirement end for a person taking inactive status?

Once the inactive petition is granted, you no longer have to satisfy the annual CLE credit hour requirement. You are also relieved of the CLE credit hour requirement for the year in which you are transferred to inactive membership status.  

However, unless exempt from CLE requirements pursuant to Rule .1517, any deficit from the calendar year preceding the year inactive status is granted (and possibly additional hours depending on length of inactive status) must be completed if you petition for reinstatement to active status.

Q: I have been certified as a specialist by the NC State Bar Board of Legal Specialization. If I change my membership status to inactive, will I lose my specialty certification?

Yes, if you remain inactive for an entire calendar year. To retain your certification, you must remain substantially involved in the specialty practice area. Substantial involvement is defined differently for each specialty but, generally, it requires that the specialist devote no less than 25% of a full-time practice to the specialty every calendar year. Check the recertification standards for your specialty by visiting the specialization website.

Q: What is the effect of taking inactive status?

If your membership status is inactive, you cannot practice North Carolina law or serve as “of counsel,” and you cannot hold yourself out as a practicing lawyer or an active member of the North Carolina State Bar. However, you may assist with the representation of legal aid clients if you petition the State Bar for and are granted pro bono status as an inactive or out of state attorney.

Inactive members of the State Bar, including lawyers who are granted emeritus pro bono status, do not have to pay any annual membership fees, including the Client Security Fund assessment, and do not have to file CLE annual report forms or take CLE annually.

Q: How may I provide pro bono legal services after taking inactive status?

You may provide supervised pro bono legal services to indigent persons served by a nonprofit corporation after being granted inactive status by petitioning the State Bar Council for emeritus pro bono status (separate petition required – Petition for Emeritus Pro Bono Status) per rules 27 N.C.A.C.1A, Rule .0201(c)(2)(F) and 27 N.C.A.C. 1D, Rule .0901(b)(3).  A lawyer granted emeritus pro bono status may not represent clients in court. 

The petition must be accompanied by the statement of an active North Carolina State Bar member (“responsible lawyer”) who is employed by a nonprofit corporation qualified to render legal services pursuant to G.S. 84-5.1, and who has agreed to supervise the pro bono services. Use the Statement Regarding Pro Bono Supervision form.

For additional information about emeritus pro bono status or to find a pro bono supervisor or project, see the NC Equal Access to Justice Commission website.

Q: How do I close/end my law practice?

See Closing a Law Practice.

Specialization

Please see FAQ's on the Specialization website.

Trust Accounting

View Trust Accounting Questions and Answers

View the Trust Account Handbook

Unauthorized Practice of Law

Review Guidelines for Attorneys Licensed in Other Jurisdictions but Seeking to Work in North Carolina

Q: What is the practice of law?

There is no precise definition of the practice of law in the statutes or caselaw. Two North Carolina statutes provide examples of the activities that constitute the practice of law. See NCGS §84-2.1 and §84-4. Note that NCGS §84-2.1 states that the list of particular acts set forth in the statute is not exclusive.

Q: Who may practice law in North Carolina?

Only active members of the North Carolina State Bar may engage in the practice of law in North Carolina. Any person other than an active member of the North Carolina State Bar who engages in the practice of law for another commits the unauthorized practice of law in violation of Chapter 84 of the North Carolina General Statutes, unless the acts are performed under the direction and active supervision of a licensed North Carolina attorney. It is a class 1 criminal misdemeanor to engage in the unauthorized practice of law.

Q: May a non-lawyer perform acts constituting the practice of law for him or herself?

Yes. An individual may represent him or herself on any legal matter. A person commits the unauthorized practice of law only by performing acts constituting the practice of law for another person or entity.

Q: May a non-lawyer do legal work for a relative, friend, or another person, if the non-lawyer does not charge any money or fees for such work?

No. It is a violation of North Carolina's unauthorized practice of law statutes for a non-lawyer to practice law regardless of the relationship with the individual for whom the services are provided or that no fees are charged.

Q: May a non-lawyer assist or represent another person in negotiations or settlement discussions on a legal claim, such as an automobile or personal injury matter?

No. Even if no lawsuit has been filed, assisting another person with settlement negotiations on a legal claim constitutes the unauthorized practice of law.

Q: May a paralegal assist or represent another person or provide legal services directly to the public?

No. A paralegal or other non-lawyer may only perform work constituting the practice of law if it is under the supervision and at the direction of a licensed North Carolina attorney. Attorneys may hire or contractwith paralegals or other non-lawyers to perform such services provided that the non-lawyers are properly supervised. See Rule 5.3 of the Revised Rules of Professional Conduct.

Q: May a corporation (including nonprofit corporations) provide legal representation to third parties?

Generally, no. NCGS §84-5 prohibits corporations from practicing law for others. However, the statute does not prohibit legal corporations, authorized to practice under Chapter 55 of the NC General Statutes, from practicing law.

Q: May a non-lawyer do legal work for a corporation?

Generally, an owner, officer, or employee of a corporation may do legal work for the corporation if the corporation has a primary interest in the transaction at issue. See State v. Pledger, 257 N.C. 634, 127 S.E. 2d 337 (1962). However, a corporation may not appear pro se and a non-lawyer may not file or appear in court proceedings, except small claims actions, on behalf of the corporation. See, LexisNexis, Division of Reed Elsevier, Inc. v. Travishan Corporation, 155 N.C.App. 205, 573 S.E.2d 547 (2002).

Q: May a lawyer licensed in another state practice law in North Carolina?

Generally no. NCGS §84-4.1 sets forth the limited circumstances under which an out-of-state attorney may practice law in North Carolina. All the requirements set forth in NCGS §84-4.1 must be satisfied before a lawyer licensed in another state may practice law in North Carolina. Also, non-resident attorneys cannot habitually practice in North Carolina, regardless of whether they satisfy the conditions set forth in NCGS §84-4.1 in an individual case. See State v. Hunter, 290 N.C. 556, 227 S.E. 2d 535 (1976). As of March 2003, Rule 5.5 of the North Carolina Rules of Professional Conduct also provides additional guidance on the limitations on activities in North Carolina by out-of-state attorneys.

Q: May non-lawyers sell or distribute standard legal kits, forms, or books to the public?

Generally yes. Generalized legal statements and opinions, not tailored to any specific or particular situation, do not constitute the unauthorized practice of law. However, if a non-lawyer attempts to meet with a person, discuss the person's particular situation, or assist the person in filling out a form legal document, the non-lawyer is committing the unauthorized practice of law.

Q: How are the prohibitions on the unauthorized practice of law enforced?

The North Carolina State Bar has the authority by statute to investigate allegations of unauthorized practice of law as well as the District Attorney. The State Bar may seek injunctive relief. District attorneys may prosecute charges of unauthorized practice of law as a class 1 criminal misdemeanor.

Q: How does the State Bar process complaints relative to the unauthorized practice of law?

The Authorized Practice Committee of the North Carolina State Bar investigates complaints of unauthorized practice of law. The procedures for the committee are found at 27 NCAC 1D, Section .0200.

Q: How do I file an unauthorized practice of law complaint with the State Bar?

All complaints regarding the unauthorized practice of law in North Carolina must be in writing. There is no special form required to file a complaint. Complaints should be mailed to the North Carolina State Bar,
ATTN: Authorized Practice Committee, PO Box 25908, Raleigh, NC 27611.

Q: What do I include with an unauthorized practice of law complaint?

Include a written summary of the circumstances constituting and surrounding the potential unauthorized practice of law. Also, include all documents or materials available that would establish a potential unauthorized practice of law violation. Make sure you include the name, address, and phone number of the person alleged to have committed the unauthorized practice of law and the names of any material witnesses to such acts, if available.

Q: When is a decision on a complaint likely to be rendered?

The Authorized Practice Committee meets once a quarter in January, April, July, and October. The committee considers all complaints filed during the preceding quarter for which the investigation has been completed. Whether an investigation is completed during the quarter in which it is filed depends upon many factors including:

(1) when the complaint was received;

(2) the complexity of the investigation; and

(3) the ability to locate the accused individual, material witnesses, and relevant evidence.

Q: May I attend a meeting of the Authorized Practice Committee?

Yes, all meetings of the committee are public.

Q: Who should I contact at the State Bar to discuss matters relating to the unauthorized practice of law?

You may contact David Johnson at the North Carolina State Bar at (919) 828-4620.

THE NORTH CAROLINA STATE BAR
217 E. Edenton Street • PO Box 25908 • Raleigh, NC 27611-5908 • 919.828.4620
Copyrightę North Carolina State Bar. All rights reserved.