In April of 2022, the Association of Professional Responsibility Lawyers (“APRL”) recommended changes to the unauthorized practice of law provisions of the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct. See APRL, APRL’s Proposal for a Revised Model Rule 5.5 (April 18, 2022). APRL’s proposal would allow for the multijurisdictional practice of law as follows:
[a] lawyer admitted and authorized to practice law in any United States jurisdiction, and not disbarred or suspended from practice in any jurisdiction, may provide legal services in this jurisdiction, subject to the other provisions of this rule.
See Proposed Model Rule 5.5(a). APRL explained that the “proposed revision of Model Rule 5.5 reflects the concept that a lawyer admitted in any U.S. jurisdiction should be able to engage in the practice of law and represent willing clients without regard to the geographic location of the lawyer or the client, the forum the services are provided in, or which jurisdiction’s rules apply at a given moment in time.”
The proposed rule, however, includes several limitations on lawyers engaging in a multijurisdictional practice. First, the revised rule would prohibit a lawyer not admitted in a specific jurisdiction from holding themselves out to the public or otherwise represent that the lawyer is admitted to practice law in that jurisdiction. Second, the new Model Rule “would still preserve judicial authority in each state to regulate who appears in state courts, emphasizes that lawyers must be competent under Rule 1.1 no matter where they are practicing or what kind of legal services they are providing, and ensures that lawyers will be subject to the disciplinary jurisdiction of not only their state of licensure but wherever they practice.”
In my opinion, this is a good proposal. If adopted by the ABA, the proposal would replace the current version of Model Rule 5.5 to “better reflect the way lawyers practice in the 21st Century.” The proposed rule would also respect states authority to license and regulate lawyers. In sum, lawyers routinely conduct the business of law remotely and the Model Rules must evolve to reflect the way lawyers practice law today.