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Let’s Just Authorize Unauthorized Practice Once and For All

by Carolyn Elefant on September 6, 2006 · 4 comments

in Ethics & Malpractice Issues, Marketing & Making Money

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Leave it to the bar associations to put the kibbosh on creativity.  Take the case of Morris Gould, an enterprising lawyer who came up with a niche practice of offering New York counsel to Florida residents with New York legal matters, as described in this article, Federal Court Grounds Snowbird Law Practice (ABA e-report, 9/1/06).  Problem is, Gould, who resides in Florida and is barred in New York, is not a member of the Florida bar.  Thus, the bar prohibited him from advertising his New York services as unauthorized practice of law.  The bar also claimed that the ads were deceptive because they gave the impression that Gould was licensed in Florida which he is not.

In this day and age, where people are transient and we can email documents to destinations 500 miles away more easily than we can carry them across the street, isn’t it time for the bars to reexamine the archaic rules on multi-jurisdictional practice?  Why must a person be a member of the bar in the state where he or she lives?

The bar’s rules on multi jurisdictional practice cause far more harm than good.  In Gould’s situation, he would have served clients physically located in Florida who had legal problems in New York.  The only alternative to Gould’s service would be for these clients to (a) find a lawyer licensed in Florida and NY or (b) hire an attorney in New York and either travel 1000 miles for face to face meetings or deal with them by phone.  Gould’s proposed niche makes sense and would have made life easier for this group of clients.
Too bad the bar didn’t see it the same way.

  • Susan Cartier-Liebel

    Carolyn,
    The articles states, “The real issue was one of misleading the public,” says Barry Richard, a Tallahassee lawyer who represents the defense. “We said that we didn’t care what he said he wanted to do; he was holding himself out as being able to practice law in Florida.”
    Therefore, if the real issue is supposedly misleading the public, wouldn’t a disclaimer be sufficient stating he is not a licensed lawyer in Florida, but New York and only available to help snow birds with their New York issues?
    There is much more going on and it has to do with why Florida has no reciprocity with other states. It is a place people retire and there would simply be too many lawyers “practicing.”
    And this will be the hold up to change, especially in states such as Florida. The Florida bar wants to protect themselves from an influx of relocating/retiring attorneys diluting their lawyer/client ratios.

  • http://howlingpoint.net/life Chuck

    While I certainly would like to see more standardized admissions and reciprocity in bar memberships, I’ll admit I’m not ready to see someone fly in from another state and open a new legal office down the street from mine with no oversight. I simply don’t see a problem with someone who has lived in Florida for 29 years and who wants to contract to provide legal services in Florida (regardless of whether the niche specializes in New York or Cuba or wherever) from having to obtain a license in Florida.

  • mythago

    You have to wonder about the guy trying to paint his practice as ‘temporary’.
    The article doesn’t link to the ruling, so it’s a bit hard to tell on what grounds it was made.

  • Eric

    Florida has no reciprocity because it has created a scenario where anyone from out of state will find that getting fair representation there is next to impossible. I know, I have been given the runaround and ridiculous fees trying to have Florida enforce its laws on behalf of a non-resident. Apparently the “Good ole boys” have finally succeeded in getting revenge on a Yankee.

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