California Landmark Cases on Admission to Practice Law

Admission to practice law in California state court is governed by California law. Business and Professions Code Section 6125 provides that "no person shall practice law in California unless the person is an active member of the State Bar." A violation of section 6125 is a misdemeanor. (Bus. & Prof. Code, 6126, subd. (a).) "Since the passage of the State Bar Act in 1927, persons may represent their own interests in legal proceedings, but may not represent the interests of another unless they are active members of the State Bar." (Hansen v. Hansen (2003) 114 Cal.App.4th 618, 621 7 Cal. Rptr. 3d 688.) No one may recover compensation for services as an attorney at law in California unless that person was a member of the State Bar at the time those services were performed. (Birbrower, Montalbano, Condon & Frank v. Superior Court (1998) 17 Cal.4th 119 at p. 127, quoting Hardy v. San Fernando Valley C. of C. (1950) 99 Cal.App.2d 572, 576 222 P.2d 314.) "'Authority to engage in the practice of law conferred in any jurisdiction is not per se a grant of the right to practice elsewhere, and it is improper for a lawyer to engage in practice where he or she is not permitted by law or by court order to do so. ...'" (Birbrower, supra, at p. 129.) Birbrower, supra, 17 Cal.4th 119, is the seminal case on the issue of the meaning of the phrase "practice law in California" in section 6125.