Skip to main content
Search the Database
About the Arbitration Law Database
How To Search
Arbitration Law Journals
All Journal Online Access Bundle
Search the Roster
What is the Roster?
Enhance Your Listing
Birbrower Was Right: Foreign Attorneys Are Entitled to Appear in International Commercial Arbitrations Held in California - Dispute Resolution Journal - Vol. 70, No. 1
Matthew P. Vafidis,
Peter R. Jarvis,
Allison Martin Rhodes,
Nellie Q. Barnard
1 PDF Download
Add to cart
Dispute Resolution Journal
Birbrower, Montalbano, Condon & Frank, PC v. Superior Court,
17 Cal. 4th 119 (1998) (“Birbrower”) is undoubtedly the most
significant case in California history on the subject of what non-
California lawyers may or may not do “in California” without engaging
in the unauthorized practice of law. Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 6125
provides that “No person shall practice law in California unless the
person is an active member of the State Bar” (the “General UPL Law”).
The question before the court involved whether, under then-existing
law, representation of California clients in domestic (i.e., United States)
arbitrations held in California violated Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 6125.
The court answered that question in the affirmative.
Here, we focus on a related issue considered briefly by the
Birbrower court. After setting out its central analysis and holding, the
court acknowledged a number of exceptions to its general rule that
domestic arbitrations held in California must involve Californialicensed
lawyers. For example, the court noted that an out-of-state
attorney not licensed in California could appear in a pending action
by the consent of the trial judge or under state rules allowing pro hac
vice appearances. Birbrower, 17 Cal. 4th at 130.
Another exception, and the one central to this discussion, involved
international disputes resolved in California under California rules for
arbitration and conciliation. The court explained that the legislature has
recognized an exception to the General UPL Law for “arbitration and
conciliation of international commercial disputes” under Cal. Civ. Proc.
§§ 1297.11-1297.432. The court went on to explain the exception: