New York's attorney office rule was thrown out by a federal judge in the Northern District of New York on Wednesday, making room for nonresident attorneys to practice law without having to maintain an office in-state.
Brought by New Jersey-based attorney Ekaterina Schoenefeld, the lawsuit challenged New York Judiciary Law § 470 on the grounds that it violates the Privileges and Immunities Clause, imposing a burden on the right to freely practice law in different states.
Under this so-called attorney office rule, resident attorneys can simply practice law out of their homes, while nonresident attorneys are required to maintain a New York office in addition to their out-of-state residence and primary place of business.
As the judge points out, this has the practical effect of discriminating against and burdening nonresident attorneys with additional costs, erecting a barrier for those who are licensed to and wish to practice law in New York.
Citing the practice of law as a fundamental right protected by the Privileges and Immunities Clause, the judge went on to state that this barrier is not backed by any substantial state interest.
The attorney office rule does not ensure attorney availability; improve service of process; nor does it ensure the ability to attach attorney property.
Furthermore, the court found that there are less restrictive means by which to accomplish these goals.
And those means are likely to replace New York's attorney office rule in the coming months, even if the state appeals this judgment. Nonresident attorneys licensed in New York can likely look forward to designated agents, malpractice insurance, and new disclosure rules.