Colorado Supreme Court

Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel

Promoting Professionalism. Protecting the Public.

What You Need to Know About RPC 5.5 and Practice Pending Admission

Deputy Regulation Counsel, Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel


In our January 2019 newsletter, we addressed temporary practice and practice pending admission-those ways a non-Colorado attorney may be permitted to practice in Colorado prior to obtaining a Colorado license to practice law.

Below, we consider this issue from the perspective of the Colorado attorney. 

Q. We’ve just hired an attorney to join our law firm who is not licensed in Colorado. What are my ethical obligations regarding this attorney’s work for our firm?

Colo. RPC 5.5(3) prohibits Colorado attorneys from assisting a person who is not authorized to practice law in the performance of any activity that constitutes the unauthorized practice of law. Colorado attorneys are responsible for their firm’s hiring and supervision of out-of-state attorneys, so Colorado attorneys must understand the limitations regarding a non-Colorado attorney’s ability to practice law in Colorado.

A non-Colorado attorney may be authorized to practice law in Colorado before obtaining a Colorado license in some circumstances. The most common exception is when the legal practice is a federal court or tribal court practice, as explained in Comment 1 to Colo. RPC 5.5.  Because those practice areas do not require an attorney to appear in a Colorado state court and thus do not require a Colorado license, Colorado attorneys allowing a newly-hired non-Colorado attorney to seek admission to and appear in federal or tribal courts would not be assisting in the unauthorized practice of law. However, Colorado attorneys may wish to verify that those new hires are and remain in good standing in their licensing jurisdiction, since a non-Colorado attorney is practicing pursuant to that license.

A non-Colorado attorney who has moved to Colorado or is regularly practicing out of a Colorado firm office cannot rely on Colorado’s Temporary Practice Rule. C.R.C.P. 205.1 allows attorneys not admitted in Colorado to engage in the temporary practice of law in Colorado, subject to certain restrictions. To be eligible to practice temporarily, the attorney must not be domiciled in Colorado or offer legal services in Colorado through a firm or other place from which the attorney holds himself or herself out to the public as practicing Colorado law or soliciting or accepting Colorado clients.

However, the non-Colorado attorney may be allowed to use the Practice Pending Admission Rule, C.R.C.P. 205.6, if he or she is applying for admission in Colorado.  And while Practice Pending Admission status by itself does not permit a non-Colorado attorney to appear in state court, Colorado judges have discretion to allow such attorneys to obtain pro hac vice status to appear in individual cases.

Colorado attorneys must also be mindful of listing non-Colorado attorneys on letterhead, websites and advertising materials before a non-Colorado attorney becomes authorized to practice in Colorado.  Appropriate disclosures should be made regarding a non-Colorado attorney’s licensure as explained in Colo. RPC 7.5(b).  Specifically, a law firm with offices in more than one jurisdiction may use the same name or other professional designation in each jurisdiction, but identification of the attorneys in an office of the firm must indicate the jurisdictional limitations on those not licensed to practice in the jurisdiction where the office is located.