Can a lawyer practice elsewhere
As attorneys and clients develop relationships and then the attorney or attorney leaves the state, a common question arises: can the relationship continue or should it end at the border of State ? The question may become even more interesting because, during the disruptions of COVID-19, one or both operate remotely. The answer can sometimes depend on the activities involved and, in some cases, where one or both now consider it their permanent residence.
Anticipating this question, an organization to which I belong, the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA), published an article, “Aging Out of Place” by Josh Ard, in their magazine, NAELA News, January/February/March 2022 and provided examples. You can, of course, alternatively deal with lawyers admitted in more than one jurisdiction, although this can become both difficult and costly for the lawyer. Additionally, as our office does, we maintain referral relationships with attorneys nationwide – primarily through NAELA so that if a client requests answers about how a case is being handled in North Carolina, Florida , in New York or California, for example, we have member attorneys to whom we could refer the client and the matter while sticking to the issue with respect to the jurisdiction where we practice – Pennsylvania.
The article’s introduction focuses on the lawyer’s problems by stating:
“As they approach retirement, many attorneys would like to move to another state while maintaining their practice. One of the challenges is how to do this without violating ethical rules.
(By the way, I have no intention of moving to another state or ceasing to practice in Pennsylvania, so for those who are my clients, rest assured.)
Lawyers moving and wishing to be admitted to practice in another State. The article notes that the process of obtaining a license in another jurisdiction can be expensive (emphasis in original) and time-consuming. Sometimes applicants must retake all or part of the bar exam. The question of reciprocity then arises. “If jurisdiction A does not allow licensed attorneys from jurisdiction B to be admitted without examination, B will almost always engage in tit-for-tat retaliation.” Florida, for example, is noted as “a notoriously harsh state for the practice of out-of-state attorneys…”
Alternatives and other possibilities. The article notes that, fortunately, there are other possibilities. I have already noted a reference network. If there is a dispute, a long-recognized process is for a local lawyer to take it to court in a process known as pro hac vice.
Since much legal work does not involve litigation for other matters, here are some things to know.
Remote practice. If, for example, a licensed Pennsylvania attorney is working remotely on a Pennsylvania case while in Florida, there should be no problem. “If a lawyer is working on legal issues on a plane, does anyone ask what state she was flying over? If she’s on the phone in a car, does it matter if she crosses a state line? What about working on client business using a computer while on vacation in another state? Why then should it matter if a lawyer works remotely from home in a new state? …” An ABA notice nods. Utah in an ethical opinion “puts it more bluntly: ‘What interest does the Utah State Bar have in regulating the practice of an out-of-state attorney for out-of-state clients? just because he has a private home in Utah? And the answer is the same: none.’ »
Considerations for lawyers. Here are some general rules given to lawyers to avoid problems.
– Never imply that you are licensed in the new state and even better, indicate that you are not.
“Never advise on the laws of the new state or practice law.
“Never present yourself as a representative of the clients of the new State.
— If possible, do the relevant work electronically and don’t meet anyone in person there.
Other exceptions. Federal practice may be an exception to allow practice across state lines.
Finally, clients should be aware that documents such as wills and powers of attorney, for example, and others prepared in one state (like Pennsylvania) are still valid when moving to another state. However, it is a good idea to have them reviewed by an attorney in the new state to ensure there are no material differences in taxation and other matters.
Janet Colliton, Esq., Colliton Elder Law Assocs., PC is a licensed elder law attorney and limits her practice to elder law, retirement, life care, special needs, planning and rehabilitation. administration with offices at 790 East Market St., Suite 250, West Chester, 610-436-6674, [email protected] She is a Fellow of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and, with Jeffrey Jones, CSA, co-founder of Life Transition Services, LLC, a service for families with long-term care needs.