No NY office? No problem: New York gives green light to out-of-state attorneys

June 27, 2023 Rob Abruzzese
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The State Legislature has paved the way for out-of-state attorneys to practice in the Empire State without the need to maintain a physical office within its boundaries. A bill to repeal Judiciary Law Section 470 has won the approval of both houses of the legislature and now awaits the signature of Governor Kathy Hochul.

The antiquated law, which dates back to 1909, has been the target of legal reformers for many years. Critics like Richard Lewis, President of the New York State Bar Association (NYSBA), have argued that the law is a relic of an age when horses were the primary mode of transportation. With modern conveniences such as e-filing, virtual court appearances, and online databases, the need for a physical office in the state is obsolete.

“The New York State Bar Association has lobbied hard for the repeal of Section 470 and is thrilled that the Legislature has recognized that the law is antiquated and burdensome,” said NYS Bar Association President Richard Lewis. “Section 470 was created when horses were the main mode of transportation.

“In a world with e-filing, virtual court appearances and searchable databases, attorneys do not need to maintain offices in New York State to practice here,” Lewis said.

Since the repeal of the state residency requirement for attorneys in 1979, Section 470 has been the last remaining hurdle for out-of-state lawyers wanting to practice in New York. Nearly a quarter of the members of the NYSBA live and practice outside the state.

The repeal of Section 470 has gained wide support, including from the New York City Bar Association’s Legal Referral Service Committee and Small Law Firm Committee. Supporters argue that in addition to being unnecessary in the modern era, the law creates procedural difficulties and contributes to delays. It also adds to the costs of legal practice in the state, which are invariably passed onto clients.

The bill repealing Section 470 was sponsored by Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal and is one of the many legislative reforms sought by the legal community in New York. Having received unanimous support from the legislature, it is now up to Governor Hochul to enact this significant change in the legal landscape of the state.

 


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