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Know Your Role Before Agreeing to Serve as Local Counsel in Federal District Court in NC

by Claire Modlin |

Serving as local counsel for an out-of-state attorney is not merely a clerical role. In fact, it may be more involved than you may think. Each federal district court has its own set of local rules.  Prior to practicing in the Eastern, Middle, or Western districts of NC federal court, thoroughly review the local rules for that district to make sure you are in compliance. Although the local rules between the three districts are similar, there are some differences relating to serving as local counsel. For the purposes of this article, I will refer to the local rules in the Eastern District of NC (EDNC).  Rule 83.1(d) of the Local Civil Rules for the US District Court of the EDNC sets the parameters for serving as local attorney for an out-of-state lawyer.  Rule 83.1(d) requires parties appearing in civil actions in the EDNC to be represented by at least one member of the bar of the EDNC who will sign all documents filed in the court.  If the attorney is appearing solely to bring a party in compliance with the local rule, that attorney shall in each instance designate himself or herself “Local Civil Rule 83.1(d) Attorney.” By signing the pleading or other document, the attorney is certifying that he or she is an authorized representative for communication with the court and that the document conforms to the practice and procedure of the court. 

As local attorney in the EDNC, you are taking the responsibility “for the conduct of the litigation of the proceeding, must be a CM/ECF registrant, and shall review for submission by the special appearance attorney all pleadings and papers electronically filed.” Local Civil Rules 83.1(e)(3).  Furthermore, “service of all pleadings and notices as required shall be sufficient if served only upon the associated local counsel. Local counsel shall attend all court proceedings unless excused by the court.”  Local Civil Rules 83.1(f). 

By agreeing to serve as local counsel for an out-of-state attorney in the EDNC, you are assuming the responsibility to:

  1. Review and sign all documents filed with the court and ensure compliance with the practices and procedures of the court.
  2. Receive service of all pleadings and notices.
  3. Attend all court proceedings unless excused by the court.

Agreeing to serve as the local attorney for out-of-state counsel can be a productive and beneficial relationship for the attorneys, as well as the client. Lawyers Mutual wants to remind attorneys to enter into the arrangement understanding what your duties are as local counsel and do not treat it as being a merely ministerial task. 

In North Carolina State Courts, N.C. Gen. Stat. §84-4.1 governs the duties of local counsel. For an article on serving as local counsel in state court in NC, see Practice Points with Mark Scruggs - Before Agreeing to Serve as Local Counsel – Stop and Think! - Lawyers Mutual Insurance Company (lawyersmutualnc.com)

Link to Local Civil Rules for EDNC:  Local Rules – U.S. District Court Eastern District of North Carolina (uscourts.gov)

Link to Local Civil Rules for the MDNC:  CIV_LR_2024.pdf (uscourts.gov)

Link to Local Civil Rules for the WDNC: Revised Local Rules 120122.pdf (uscourts.gov)

About the Author

Claire Modlin

Claire is the Vice President of Claims. She joined Lawyers Mutual in 2017 and previously served in the role of Underwriter and Senior Claims Counsel. Prior to joining Lawyers Mutual, she practiced in the areas of civil litigation, medical malpractice defense, insurance defense, and transportation. Claire actively practiced in both large and medium-sized firms in North Carolina for 22 years.  You can reach Claire at 800.662.8843 or at claire@lawyersmutualnc.com

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