Elizabeth Warren Law License Controversy

In September 2012, it was revealed that despite rendering legal services from her offices in Cambridge, Massachusetts using her law school address since sometime in the mid-1990s, Warren was not licensed to practice law in Massachusetts.[1]

Warren refused to disclose[2] the full extent of her private law practice when asked by The Boston Globe.  A list of cases later produced by Warren to The Boston Globe shortly before a Senatorial debate was incomplete.[3]

As of 2002, Warren had at least 10 private legal matters[4] and charged $675 per hour.[5] Research revealed that there were at least 22 court cases in which Warren represented clients from her office in Massachusetts.

Warren listed her Massachusetts office as her “primary practice location” in her registration with the Texas Bar.[6]

In an interview with a local radio station, Warren acknowledged that she was not licensed in Massachusetts and stated that the did not practice law in Massachusetts.[7]

The General Counsel of the Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers gave an interview[8] shortly after the controversy broke and suggested that a law professor in a situation similar to Warren would not have to be licensed, but he later clarified[9] that he was expressing a personal opinion only and that he was not sufficiently familiar with Warren’s legal practice to make a determination as to Warren specifically.[10] The Republican Party of Massachusetts objected to the General Counsel’s interview in a letter to the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts.[11]

Supporters of Warren and others[12][13] argued that Warren was not required to be licensed in Massachusetts because she did not represent any Massachusetts clients in Massachusetts on Massachusetts legal issues.  While it was disputed that that was the applicable test, it turned out there was a case in which Warren represented a Massachusetts client in Massachusetts on a Massachusetts legal issue.[14]

One of the people who had supported Warren on the issue declared[15]:

Professor Jacobson has uncovered this morning[16] a case in which Elizabeth Warren entered an appearance in a federal appellate court as a representative of a Massachusetts client in a case that appears to have clearly implicated Massachusetts law.  Although this is still a federal appellate court, because we’re dealing with a Massachusetts client and issues of Massachusetts law, this looks really, really bad for Professor Warren.  With this bombshell, I would no longer view the case against her as weak.

Jack Marshall at Ethics Alarms[17] wrote:

Prof Jacobson, on his blog Legal Insurrection, is in line for an Ethics Hero award with his tenacity regarding Elizabeth Warren’s dubious qualifications to engage in the practice of law in  Massachusetts.[18] The overwhelming reaction by his colleagues in legal academia, and mine in the legal ethics community, has been to airily dismiss his arguments as trivial, far-fetched and thinly disguised political warfare, since Jacobson is an unapologetic conservative blogger (and a distinguished one.) Meanwhile, the mainstream media has, I think it is fair to say, completely ignored the story….

The rude brush off Prof. Jacobson is getting in this wagon-circling exercise is wrong in every way, and does injustice to every person and institution involved, including the Massachusetts legal establishment, the legal profession, ethical lawyers (which, believe it or not, the vast majority of them are), Senator Brown, the U.S. Senate, Massachusetts voters, and the American public….

In a poll of Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly readers, a substantial majority requested an investigation of Warren’s law practice.[19]

A former U.S. Attorney called for an investigation.[20]

In 2002 a federal judge had referred the case of another law professor who practiced law from his law school office to the Board of Bar Overseers for review, although there is no record as to whether any action was taken.[21]

In addressing the controversy surrounding her problematic claims[22] to be a championing women and workers when she was actually working against these groups’ interests[23],Warren released[24] more information regarding the legal cases she worked while in Massachusetts.

The Washington Post notes[25] that the released list includes far more cases than she had previously disclosed.


  1. ^ William A. Jacobson, Elizabeth Warren's law license problemLegal Insurrection, Sep. 24, 2012
  2. ^ Noah Bierman, Elizabeth Warren was key in asbestos caseThe Boston Globe, May 1, 2012
  3. ^ William A. Jacobson, Elizabeth Warren issues incomplete list of casesLegal Insurrection, Oct. 1, 2012
  4. ^ William A. Jacobson, Elizabeth Warren 2002 - Working on at least 10 private legal mattersLegal Insurrection, Sep. 28, 2012
  5. ^ William A. Jacobson, 2002 - Elizabeth Warren charged $675 per hour as special legal consultantLegal Insurrection, Sep. 26, 2012
  6. ^ William A. Jacobson, Elizabeth Warren listed Cambridge as primary practice location with Texas BarLegal Insurrection, Sep. 26, 2012
  7. ^ Becket Adams, Updated With Audio of Warren’s Admission — Professor’s Bombshell Charge: Elizabeth Warren Practiced Law in Mass. Without a LicenseThe Blaze, Sept. 24, 2012
  8. ^ Lisa Keen, Warren law license matter called non-issueMass Lawyers Weekly, Sep. 24, 2012
  9. ^ William A. Jacobson, No, Mass. Board of Bar Overseers has not exonerated Elizabeth WarrenLegal Insurrection, Sep. 25, 2012
  10. ^ William A. Jacobson, Massachusetts BBO General Counsel has some explaining to doLegal Insurrection, Oct. 4, 2012
  11. ^ William A. Jacobson, Elizabeth Warren law license problem goes to CourtLegal Insurrection, Oct. 8, 2012
  12. ^ Mark Thompson, No, Elizabeth Warren Did Not Engage in the Unauthorized Practice of LawLeague of Ordinary Gentlemen, Sep. 24, 2012
  13. ^ John Steele, Elizabeth Warren and UPL?Legal Ethics Forum, Sept. 24, 2012
  14. ^ William A. Jacobson, Elizabeth Warren represented Massachusetts client in MassachusettsLegal Insurrection, Sep. 27, 2012
  15. ^ William A. Jacobson, Elizabeth Warren defender: With this bombshell, I would no longer view the case against her as weakLegal Insurrection, Sep. 27, 2012
  16. ^ William A. Jacobson, Elizabeth Warren represented Massachusetts client in MassachusettsLegal Insurrection, Sep. 27, 2012
  17. ^ Jack Marshall, More Revelations Regarding Elizabeth Warren's Alleged Unauthorized Practice of Law and Why This MattersEthics Alarms, Sep. 27, 2012
  18. ^ Jack Marshall, More From Prof. Jacobson On Elizabeth Warren's Law LicenseEthics Alarms, Sep. 25, 2012
  19. ^ Erin Fuchs, Elizabeth Warren's Law License Issues Have Gotten Even Worse Before Tonight's Big DebateBusiness Insider, Oct. 1, 2012
  20. ^ William A. Jacobson, Former US Attorney calls for investigation of Elizabeth Warren law license problemLegal Insurrection, Oct. 15, 2012
  21. ^ William A. Jacobson, Fed Judge 2002 - Questions why law Prof not licensed in MA provided legal services from MA officeLegal Insurrection, Oct. 11, 2012
  22. ^ William A. Jacobson, Elizabeth Warren hid her lucrative legal practice because it was “contrary to her political narrative”Legal Insurrection, Dec. 18, 2019
  23. ^ William A. Jacobson, Elizabeth Warren admits she pocketed $2 million from legal practice, which included anti-consumer representationLegal Insurrection, Dec. 08, 2019
  24. ^ ElizabethWarren.com, Elizabeth Warren's Legal WorkElizabethWarren.com, accessed Jan. 17, 2020
  25. ^ Annie Linskey and Elise Viebeck, While teaching, Warren worked on about 60 legal matters, far more than she’d previously disclosedThe Washington Post, May 23, 2019
Last Updated: January 17th, 2020