Thinking Ethics Always Responsible: The Kansas Local Counsel, 080112 KSBJ, Vol. 81 J. Kan. Bar Assn 7, 9 (2012)

Thinking Ethics Always Responsible: The Kansas Local Counsel

Vol. 81 J. Kan. Bar Assn 7, 9 (2012)

Kansas Bar Journal

August 1, 2012

By Hon. Steve Leben, Kansas Court of Appeals, Topeka

The common disclaimer—"Your experience may vary"—added to the end of an advertisement signals that your experience using the advertised product is unlikely to match all of the claims you've just heard, seen, or read. But it's also a useful reminder that we will have different experiences in a variety of contexts, something of importance if you ever serve as Kansas counsel to an out-of-state attorney involved in litigation here.

Out-of-state lawyers may have a very different experience with local-counsel requirements than we're used to in Kansas. And our requirements in Kansas state court have been strengthened even further effective July 1. So let's take a moment to consider them—in context.

Part of the context is that it's hard to be sure that the out-of-state attorney you are working with comes from a similar background. A Westlaw search finds more than 25 articles in legal texts and periodicals using the words "mail drop" close by the term "local counsel."

But that form of local-counsel practice has not been accepted in Kansas for decades. Since at least the 1980s, Kansas state and federal court rules have required that local counsel sign all pleadings, documents, and briefs.1 Two recent developments have underscored the importance of diligently carrying out these duties as local counsel.

First, in In re Roswold,2] the Kansas Supreme Court suspended an attorney's license because he failed to heed rules governing the admission of out-of-state counsel pro hac vice and failed himself to provide adequate representation to the client. In that case, James Roswold and Mark Schmid were law partners, but Schmid offices in Missouri and wasn't admitted in Kansas. Schmid accepted a Kansas medical-malpractice case and Roswold signed the petition, which Schmid prepared. Roswold never met the client, didn't make sure the case was progressing properly, and didn't get Schmid admitted pro hac vice. Serious problems arose when a defense motion for summary judgment arrived, was given to Schmid, and Schmid neither responded nor told Roswold. The rest of the story is a bit involved, but Roswold ended up in disciplinary trouble, something that the Kansas Supreme Court said underscored the importance of the rule requiring pro hac vice admission of...

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