New Jersey, home of so many legitimate businessmen, is one of the few remaining jurisdictions to require lawyers to maintain a ‘legitimate office’ within state lines. Essentially, the ‘bona fide office rule’ is meant to prevent the neighboring markets of Philadelphia and—especially—New York from swallowing up the all local legal business. Currently, the bona fide office requirement mandates that New Jersey- licensed lawyers must have an office in the state, including a receptionist and a space for meeting clients.
Last week, two Garden State court regulatory committees ruled that "virtual offices" staffed by receptionists who are mere answering services do not meet the requirements of New Jersey’s rule.
Opponents of the rule have long argued that it is discriminatory against small firms and solos who are prevented from practicing in-state due to the cost and impracticality of establishing an additional office. More recently, it has become apparent that the rule conflicts with the growth and increasing relevance of virtual law offices.
A dire economy and technological advances are accelerating the virtual trend. Enabled by technology allowing lawyers to work remotely, the virtual law practice is a logical response to a globalized and tightfisted legal market. Except in New Jersey.
In other legal protectionism news, Ashurst has shut down its Delhi office in the wake of the Lawyers Collective case, which ruled that the practice of all law by foreign firms in India is illegal.
-posted by brian
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