Day 17: Allow a Freer Market for … Lawyers?

It is not often that the Rio Grande Foundation argues on behalf of lawyers, but on the issue of reciprocity, New Mexico’s “anti-free market” restriction of the supply of lawyers is economically-harmful. Regulations on lawyers are not made the Legislature or some administrative body, but by the five member New Mexico Supreme Court itself.

New Mexico finds itself sandwiched between our adjoining and more enlightened States of Utah, Colorado, Arizona, Texas, and Oklahoma. It is bound by states that foster the free movement of legal professionals, and encourages the free flow of legal commerce. When businesses are looking to locate their headquarters or large offices, they want the flexibility to bring in their own experienced legal departments without the burden of time consuming, expensive, delaying, wasteful or redundant bar examinations rather than having their hiring pool artificially limited.

The state is one of only eleven jurisdictions in the United States that has not adopted what is called “admission-by-motion procedure” that enhances reciprocity.1 New Mexico requires experienced and competent lawyers to take a bar examination administered by New Mexico to gain admission. New Mexico does not impose the same requirement for other professions such as doctors, other medical professionals and certified public accountants.2

The American Bar Association has commented in its commission on ethics that the effect of requiring attorneys already licensed and experienced in legal practice to take another bar exam is an “erection of an excessive barrier” that is “lengthy, expensive and burdensome”; and while reciprocity was not necessarily needed when the rules were originally promulgated because people maintained law offices in a single jurisdiction over their entire careers, geographic mobility and the increasing demands of multi-state clients make this an obvious reform.

New Mexico’s Supreme Court should end its economically-harmful, regulatory provincialism, and adopt the American Bar Association’s “Admission by Motion” procedure.

1American Bar Association, “Model Rule for Admission by Motion,”…pdf

2House Memorial 2 to Adopt the American Bar Association’s Model Rule on “Admission by Motion,”