of counsel

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Of counsel is a designation provided by law firms for lawyers that are neither associates nor partners but are affiliated with the firm. 

The ABA Formal Opinion 90-357 identified four different relationships that may be referred to as “of counsel”:

  1. “a part- time practitioner, who practices law in association with a firm, but on a basis different from that of the mainstream lawyers in the firm
  2. a retired partner of the firm who, although not actively practicing law, nonetheless remains associated with the firm and available for occasional consultation
  3. a lawyer who is, in effect, a probationary partner-to-be
  4. a permanent status in between those of partner and associate… but having the quality of tenure, or something close to it, and lacking that of an expectation of likely promotion to full partner status”

[Last updated in July of 2023 by the Wex Definitions Team]