Registered In-House Counsel Is Not An Option For The Government

Last month, Governor Gavin Newsom announced the appointment of a general counsel for the Department of Financial Protection & Innovation.  The appointee, a graduate of Georgetown University Law Center, had previously served as a Senior Attorney for several years at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.  However, the appointment raised just one question - the appointee was not a member of the California bar.

California has several programs that permit attorneys from other U.S. jurisdictions to practice in California.  One of these programs is for Registered In-House Counsel.   This program allows a non-California attorney to  provide legal services in California exclusively for a qualifying institution that employs the attorney.   Rule 9.46(a) of the California Rules of Court defines "qualifying institution" as "means a corporation, a partnership, an association, or other legal entity, including its subsidiaries and organizational affiliates, which has an office located in California".  A "qualifying institution" must either: (i) employ at least five full time employees; or (ii) employ in California an attorney who is an active licensee in good standing of the State Bar of California.

.The rule, however, also provides that "Neither a governmental entity nor an entity that provides legal services to others can be a qualifying institution for purposes of this rule".  Because this seemed to be a bar to the DFPI's employment of a non-California attorney as general counsel, this writer contacted the Governor's office for clarification.  Late last week, I received a response.   I was informed that the Governor's press release has been "updated" to state that the appointee will occupy the position of Deputy Commissioner at the DFPI and will not be serving as general counsel.