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NM Supreme Court drops re-exam requirement for out of state lawyers

Only 11 states still forbid out-of-state attorneys from practicing without re-taking the bar exam, and until recently, New Mexico was one of them. But no longer.

The New Mexico Supreme Court approved a rule allowing attorneys from out of state to practice in New Mexico without having to take the state’s bar exam.

However, the Supreme Court did rule that only lawyers in states that have similar reciprocity agreements with the state of New Mexico will be allowed to practice in the state without a bar exam. To apply for reciprocity, out-of-state lawyers will have to have practiced for five of the last seven years, according to the ruling.

Albuquerque attorney Pat Rogers, wasn’t satisfied with the Supreme Court’s decision, asserting they should have gone even further, “The court did not adopt the less restrictive proposal favored by his group and the Rio Grande Foundation. The court did, however, remove a good portion of the existing restrictive barriers to competition in the practice of law in New Mexico. Consumers should be the winners.”

Paul Gessing, president of the Rio Grande Foundation wasn’t quite as critical as Rogers, noting that the Supreme Court’s decision as a step forward, but not perfect, “We are pleased that the court has concluded that failing to recognize the credentials of out-of-state attorneys — while providing protection to a small group of marginal, in-state attorneys — is unfair to New Mexico consumers of legal services and ultimately harms our economy. It is less than perfect, but it is a step forward.”

Gessing also noted that the ruling should help elected officials and lawmakers focus their attention on more important issues like job growth.