The United States Legal System and the American Lawyer

For non-United States citizens, the American legal system may seem like a bit of a mystery. Essentially, our law is based on traditions inherited from England's common law system. While legislatures (federal, state and local) are primarily making the law, the "Common Law" systems place much emphasis on judicial interpretation of such laws and allows for judges to interpret legislative intent. For example, if a law is made that says "No vehicles are allowed in the park" one would expect a lawyer to go to court and fight such a law for their client if a police officer ticketed a mother with a baby stroller or a man in a wheelchair for having a vehicle in the park. Under different theories (some based on our constitution) this law would not be enforced against these people.

The Common Law can be found throughout the world where England had influence through its colonial expansion. In contrast, most other European nations use the "Civil Law" that places less importance on judge made law and relies more on what the civil codes say at the moment. This Civil Law tradition found throughout the world relies much on academic doctrine the way the Common Law relies on judicial outcomes, which allow attorneys to advise their clients.

There is no such thing as an "American Lawyer." An American (or non-US citizen) who has a license to practice law is licensed by the state in which they were admitted to practice law by the state licensing authority, which in New York, for example, is done by the Board of Law Examiners under the authority of the New York Court of Appeals, the highest state court in New York. Attorneys are admitted to practice in the federal courts if they are admitted to practice in a state and meet the requirements of admission set by each federal court. If an attorney is licensed in one state, often times it qualifies them through principles of reciprocity to practice in another state, but not always as each state makes its own rules. Our federal constitutional system separates powers between the federal and state lawmakers, such that, for example, family law is in the purview of state law makers, whereas laws relating to immigration or the importing of goods is under the purview of federal law.

Corporate attorneys and commercial litigators in NYC at Kurzon LLP have had international experiences (both academic and professional), that make us well qualified to advise non-US companies on doing business in the United States. We have attorneys who are licensed to practice in New York and Massachusetts, as well as many federal courts. Please let us know if you think we may be able to help you achieve your business goals, whether they are corporate or litigation based.