Is Practicing Remotely From a Different State Okay?

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By: The NBI Team

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Is Practicing Remotely From a Different State Okay?

AS COVID-19 has reshaped the face of the legal field, attorneys and judges across the country have adapted. Gone are the days of crowded docket calls and lengthy court appearances. Most hearings occur virtually, with attorneys representing their clients from the comfort of their own office.

While there are many hardships involved in practicing law during the COVID-19 pandemic, these remote hearings provide some unexpected convenience to some attorneys. But has this added convenience opened the door to potential ethical or legal complications? When it comes to attorneys that practice across state lines, the answer could be yes. Attorneys could benefit from considering the following potential challenges when appearing virtually in a new jurisdiction for the first time.

Ethical Considerations & Model Rule 5.5

The ABA provided additional guidance for remote lawyers on December 16, 2020. Formal Opinion 495 applies Model Rule 5.5 to situations where a lawyer is practicing in a local jurisdiction away from their licensing jurisdiction. An attorney may do so if the following criteria are met and the practice is not prohibited by the local jurisdiction:
  • The lawyer does not establish an office or systematic presence in the jurisdiction.
  • The lawyer does not “hold themselves out” to perform services in the jurisdiction.
  • The lawyer does not actually practice on matters in the jurisdiction.
The ABA Opinion further reasons that the purpose of Rule 5.5 is not served by prohibiting lawyers from practicing the law of their licensing jurisdiction on matters within their licensing jurisdiction if they are “invisible as a lawyer to a local jurisdiction” where they are physically located.

Recorded on December 14, 2020, NBI’s CLE course, How to Ethically Practice From a Remote Office discusses additional ethical challenges facing lawyers during the pandemic, including cybersecurity, confidentiality and communication concerns. The course is now available OnDemand.

Staying Up to Date During the Pandemic

Legal proceedings are not the only things primarily occurring online. For the immediate future, most CLE courses and conventions are also being hosted virtually as well. While this is a notable change in how many attorneys pursue continuing education, the addition of remote options has also dramatically improved access to a variety of useful courses.

Check out NBI’s full Online Course Catalog to explore CLE offerings that fit your learning needs.

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This blog post is for general informative purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice or a solicitation to provide legal services. You should consult with an attorney before you rely on this information. While we attempted to ensure accuracy, completeness and timeliness, we assume no responsibility for this post’s accuracy, completeness or timeliness.

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