NYSBA and NYC Bar Association Push for Repeal of Law That Requires Lawyers To Have an Office in the State To Practice Law in NY
The New York State Bar Association and the New York City Bar Association have released a joint letter calling for Gov. Kathy Hochul to repeal Judiciary Law Section 470, a century-old statute that requires lawyers admitted to practice in New York – but residing in other states – to have a law office in the state.
“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. We urge the governor to sign the repeal bill and bring the practice of law into the modern era. As we point out in our letter, Section 470 is antiquated and a burden to the hardworking lawyers of our state.”
“There are so many good reasons to relieve nonresident lawyers admitted to practice in New York of the burden of maintaining a physical office,” said Susan Kohlmann, president of the New York City Bar Association. “Remote work is here to stay, and legal needs of New Yorkers are only increasing in today’s complex world. Signing this bill into law will keep the profession moving forward and increase access to justice.”
When Section 470 was enacted in 1909, it was because the New York State Legislature believed that it would be difficult to serve papers on a nonresident attorney who didn’t have an office in the state. At the time, lawyers practicing in New York were required to live here. The New York Court of Appeals struck down the residency requirement in 1979 on the grounds that it violated the Privileges and Immunities Clause of the state Constitution, but Section 470 still required a New York attorney to maintain a physical office within the state.
The bill to repeal Section 470, A.2218/S.3261, was approved by the state legislature in June.
In January 2019, NYSBA’s House of Delegates, its governing body, approved a resolution calling for the repeal of Section 470, which had been recommended by the association’s working group studying the issue. Almost one in four members of the New York State Bar Association live and practice outside the state of New York.