California Government Registered In-House Counsel

Last month, Governor Gavin Newsom announced the appointment of a general counsel for the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation. The appointee, a graduate of Georgetown University Law Center, had previously served as senior counsel for several years in the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. However, the nomination raised only one issue – the appointee was not a member of the California bar.

California has several programs that allow lawyers from other US jurisdictions to practice in California. One of these programs is for registered in-house attorneys. This program allows a non-California attorney to provide legal services in California exclusively for a qualified institution that employs the attorney. Rule 9.46(a) California Court Rules define “eligible institution” as “a corporation, partnership, association, or other legal entity, including its subsidiaries and affiliated organizations, that has an office located in California.” A “Qualifying Institution” must either: (i) employ at least five full-time employees; or (ii) employ an attorney in California who is actively licensed and in good standing with the Bar of the State of California.

. The rule, however, also provides that “neither a government entity nor an entity that provides legal services to others may be a qualifying institution for the purposes of this rule.” Because this appeared to be a barrier to the DFPI employing a non-Californian attorney as general counsel, this author contacted the governor’s office for clarification. At the end of last week, I received a response. I have been informed that the Governor’s press release has been “updatedto indicate that the appointee will serve as Deputy Commissioner at the DFPI and not be General Counsel.

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Bernard P. Love