The US state of Texas is considering a plan to open its borders to foreign lawyers and compete with New York for the best international talent.

Just 15-20 foreign lawyers sit for the Texas State Bar exam each year due to eligibility rules that exclude many candidates. In contrast, on average, more than 4,000 foreign lawyers seek to practise in New York every year.

A task force led by Haynes and Boone partner Larry Pascal spent three years studying how to make Texas – the US’s biggest exporter – more internationally competitive. It considered views from the Law Society and American Bar Association.

The result is a call to:

  • Relax the rules on foreign legal consultants who wish to practise their home country’s law;
  • Reform the rule that prevents foreign lawyers appearing before a Texan court;
  • Increase the eligibility of foreign lawyers to sit Texas’s bar exam.

Crucially, foreign lawyers from civil law countries who hold a foreign law licence and relevant qualifications from a US law school would be eligible for the first time to practise in Texas.

Texas officials admit the reforms are, in part, inspired by the rules of entry to New York, although they are slightly more restrictive.

‘Our proposals, if adopted, better position Texas to compete for the best and the brightest that the world has to offer, rather than sending them to New York and disadvantaging Texas law firms, companies, and users of cross-border legal services,’ said Pascal.

The proposals will now go before the Texas Supreme Court for consideration.