December 12, 2002
Restrictions to Philly Lawyers' Practice in New Jersey May Soon FallBarriers to Philadelphia lawyers who want to represent clients in neighboring New Jersey may soon be struck down, thanks to the persistence of the 13,000-member Philadelphia Bar Association and recommendations released today by two committees of the New Jersey State Supreme Court. If the New Jersey Supreme Court accepts the committees' recommendations, New Jersey's restrictive "bona fide office rule," which prevented many Philadelphia lawyers from practicing in the State, will virtually disappear.
Philadelphia Bar Association Chancellor Allan H. Gordon today hailed the recommendations of the New Jersey Supreme Court's ad hoc committee on bar admissions and the Court's Commission on the Rules of Professional Conduct. "We commend New Jersey on taking the first important step toward the elimination of a rule which needlessly restricted interstate practice. This move opens the doors to the consumers of legal services and is consistent with the model rules of the American Bar Association and trends throughout the nation."
Noting that the Philadelphia Bar Association's challenge to the New Jersey bona fide office rule began five years ago, Gordon said that "very few things worth accomplishing are ever accomplished quickly or easily. But we were convinced that challenging this rule was the right thing to do - right for lawyers, right for clients, and right for the people of both states." The Chancellor thanked former Bar Association Chancellor Clifford E. Haines, former Bar Association Chancellor Mark A. Aronchick, "and all of the Chancellors who followed, as well as former Judge Arlin Adams and our colleague Nancy Winkelman, who wrote the initial briefs in this case."
Gordon pointed out that the Ad Hoc Committee on Bar Admissions in New Jersey specifically recommended the elimination of "the requirements that the bona fide office must be located in this [New Jersey] state." He also pointed out that New Jersey's Commission on the Rules of Professional Practice declared: "the Commission opposes an interstate bona fide office requirement." The Chancellor said that the conclusions of the two committees "came after extensive consideration, lengthy hearings and careful study."
Gordon said that "in an age of palm-size computers, laptops, cell phones and portable virtual offices the bona fide office requirement really makes no sense."
Additional hearings on today's recommendations will be held in April, 2003, with final action expected to follow by the New Jersey State Supreme Court. "We are optimistic that the Court will agree with the recommendations of its own committees and that these barriers will finally fall," Gordon said. "If and when that happens, consumers will have greater access to legal services and the legal marketplace in our region will be consistent with the way law is practiced in the 21st century."