From horseback to hyperlink: NYS Bar Association urges modernization of 100-year-old rule

November 13, 2023 Robert Abruzzese, Courthouse Editor
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The New York State Bar Association (NYSBA) and the New York City Bar Association have united in their appeal to Gov. Kathy Hochul, urging the repeal of an outdated law mandating out-of-state lawyers to maintain a physical office in New York to practice law here. 

Both associations argue that Judiciary Law Section 470, established in 1909, is obsolete in an era of digital filings and virtual court proceedings.

Richard Lewis, president of NYSBA, highlighted the redundancy of the statute, while Susan Kohlmann, president of the NYC Bar Association, emphasized the benefits of remote work and its potential to enhance legal services in New York. The bill to repeal the law has already received legislative approval this past June.

“Section 470 was created when horses were the main mode of transportation,” said Richard Lewis, president of the New York State Bar Association. “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.”

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The push for repeal aligns with the NYSBA’s 2019 resolution and reflects the changing dynamics of legal practice, where nearly a quarter of its members operate outside New York State. This move, if enacted, promises to align the legal profession with contemporary practices and expand access to justice for New Yorkers.

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