NY Ethics Opinion: New York Lawyers May Partner With Japanese Benrishi (“Patent Agents”)

Benrishi are authorized under Japanese law to practice patent law, but need not be lawyers.  Generally, under U.S. ethical rules, lawyers may not be partners with non-lawyers. Instead, much like US patent agents, they need not sit for the general bar but must pass a patent registration examination.  Unlike US patent agents, they may in some circumstances represent clients in patent matters in certain courts.  Nonetheless, a New York ethics committee reasoned that, under some circumstances, US lawyers may form partnerships with Japanese Benrishi.

The opinion by the New York State Bar Association on Professional Ethics, Op. No. 1072 (2015), is here.  The conditions include ensuring that the educational and ethical requirements are similar to other New York laws regulating partnerships with other foreign-licensed professionals.

On a related note, under some circumstances, of course, patent attorneys may form partnerships with patent agents, but that requires, like this, extreme care.

About David

Professor of Law, Mercer University School of Law. Of Counsel, Taylor English Duma, LLP. Former judicial clerk to Chief Judge Rader; former lawyer with Baker Botts and other firms

One thought on “NY Ethics Opinion: New York Lawyers May Partner With Japanese Benrishi (“Patent Agents”)

  1. 1

    Yet again, this silly business of lawyers believing the lies they tell about themselves, that they are somehow bestowed with divine knowledge and powers that make it improper for them to share fees with lesser beings (and that by holding to this canard, they are somehow going to convince the general public that lawyers are trustworthy). NYSBA appears to have gotten it right it this case, but there shouldn’t even be a question about lawyers partnering with patent practitioners who are not admitted somewhere as general practice lawyers.

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