How to practise in Illinois
There are approximately 60,000 practising lawyers in the State of Illinois.
To practice law, candidates must pass the Illinois Bar Exam administered by the Illinois Board of Admissions to the Bar; an arm of the Supreme Court.
The Illinois Supreme Court is responsible for the admission, registration and discipline of lawyers in Illinois.
There is a voluntary Illinois State Bar Association; which acts as a representative body for lawyers practising in Illinois, and a number of local bar associations including the Chicago Bar Association.
Foreign lawyers may request permission from the Board to sit for the Illinois bar examination under Rule 715. The application process is outlined on the Illinois Board of Admissions to the Bar website.
Foreign lawyers must meet three requirements in order to apply to sit the bar exam:
- The lawyer must have been licensed to practice law in the country in which the law degree was conferred and/or in the highest court of law in any US state, territory, or the District of Columbia for a minimum of 5 years;
- The lawyer must be in good standing as an attorney or equivalent in that country and/or in any US jurisdiction where admitted to practice;
- During each of no fewer than 5 of the 7 years immediately prior to making application in Illinois, the lawyer must have verifiably devoted an annual minimum of 500 hours to the practice of the law of such country and/or to the law of any US jurisdiction(s) where licensed.
Foreign legal consultants:
An alternative route for foreign lawyers to practice in Illinois is available via a Foreign Legal Consultant license which permits foreign lawyers restricted legal practice within the State on the basis of their home country qualifications and experience.
Foreign Legal Consultants are subject to certain restrictions:
- they cannot provide legal advice on the law of the State of Illinois nor on the laws of the USA;
- they cannot appear in court as an attorney for anyone other than himself or herself;
- they cannot hold himself or herself out as a licensed Illinois attorney.
There are also restrictions on the type of work a Foreign Legal Consultant may do, mainly relating to property, probate and family law, and on the name or title of his or her practice.
The Supreme Court may issue a license to practice as an Foreign Legal Consultant to lawyers who:
- are a member in good standing of a recognised legal profession in a foreign country;
- who are admitted to practice as an attorney or equivalent and subject to effective regulation and discipline by a duly constituted professional body or public authority;
- who have been engaged in the practice of law for at least five of the seven years immediately preceding the application.
- who intends to practice as a legal consultant in the State of Illinois and maintain an office for this purpose.
Applicants must supply proof of admission to practice in their home country and evidence of educational and professional qualifications.
Illinois Supreme Court Rules 712 and 713 set out the rules for Foreign Legal Consultants in the State of Illinois.
The Supreme Court of Illinois is conducting a review on whether it should introduce rules on the temporary practice of Foreign Legal Consultants in the state.