Last summer, we reported on a bill that was making its way through the New York State Legislature that would repeal New York's Judiciary Law Section 470 ("Section 470"), a 112 year-old statute that requires New York lawyers to maintain a physical office in New York. Section 470 states:
A person, regularly admitted to practice as an attorney and counsellor, in the courts of record of this state, whose office for the transaction of law business is within the state, may practice as such attorney or counsellor, although he resides in an adjoining state.
In the past decade, the New York Court of Appeals interpreted Section 470 to require non-resident New York lawyers to maintain a physical office in New York if they want to practice law in the state and the Second Circuit held that the law was constitutional. In other words, although a New York lawyer who resides in the state is permitted to practice law from his or her kitchen or living room, a "non-resident" New York lawyer who lives in an adjoining state must incur the expense and inconvenience of establishing a brick and mortar office. In addition, the rapid shift to remote practice during the COVID-19 pandemic has amplified many of the earlier criticisms of Section 470, including that the law is antiquated.
The bill to repeal Section 470 has gained widespread support from lawyers and bar associations throughout the state including the New York State Bar Association and the New York City Bar Association's Legal Referral Service Committee.
Earlier today, the bill was voted out of the State Senate Judiciary Committee so that it can be calendared before the full State Senate. Although this is one small step towards the bill becoming law, it could result in a much-needed leap forward for New York lawyers.
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