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Let’s Just Authorize Unauthorized Practice Once and For All

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.