One of my main practice areas is serving as local counsel for attorneys from other states. Obviously, you have to be licensed to practice in Minnesota and to appear in Minnesota courts. But sometimes clients from out of state who have a legal matter in Minnesota have their preferred counsel or their own in-house general counsel whom they want involved in litigation. They need to have someone who can appear in the state and federal courts in Minnesota. I often step in to fill that need.
For example, I have a client who’s in California, and the company was sued here in Minnesota. The attorney they frequently use is a litigator in California who knows a lot about the institutional history of the client and about the particular dispute between these two parties. He wants to be involved and helpful in the litigation. But logistically, he’s not going to fly to Minnesota every time there’s a status conference. So he’s required to partner with a local attorney in Minnesota who’s licensed to practice here.
Local counsel who knows Minnesota laws
Not only can I be the person who appears in court or sits at the deposition. I can also guide the out-of-state attorney with some of the local peccadillos of our procedural law or Minnesota state law. For example, one of the more unusual procedural rules in Minnesota is what we call the “hip pocket service rule.” We are one of only four states where an action is actually commenced when you serve the defendant. You don’t have to file the case. You have up to a year to file your case.
The purpose of the rule is if you have the type of case that might settle early, you’re not taxing the courts resources. Your clients don’t have to pay filing fees to get into court. You can schedule things on your own time. You’re not ordered by the court to proceed in a particular fashion. Really, it’s to encourage parties to settle a case confidentially before something public gets filed. That’s the kind of local rule I can provide guidance on.
Local counsel who knows Minnesota judges
Something I frequently provide guidance in are the Minnesota judges. Because I appear frequently in front of certain judges, I know what they like and what they don’t like. I can provide guidance on whether it would be appropriate to strike a judge in Minnesota state courts. Each side basically gets a one-strike rule and you don’t have to give a reason.
A legal resource in Minnesota for out-of-state attorneys
I get inquiries from out-of-state lawyers to serve as local counsel in a gamut of different areas. Some are areas that I also practice in including business litigation, employment litigation, and those sorts of things. But I’ve also been asked to serve as local counsel in product liability matters, intellectual property matters, copyright and trademark disputes and other areas where I’m not necessarily a subject matter expert. But I am the person who knows the judge and can appear at the hearings and can advise on local procedures and rules.
One of the reasons I really enjoy this area of my practice is it allows me to tag team with national counsel. I will be as involved in the working up of the case as they need me to be. I have cases where national counsel has literally wanted me to take the case and run with it. And I’ve had cases where I really just advise generally on things like correctly filing forms, next actions to take, or what different judges like. In those cases, national counsel takes the reins and I’m the local pit stop if they need to come to Minnesota for a hearing or a deposition. I can do whatever they need.
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