🗺️ Coronavirus-induced remote work may lead to new rules for state-bound legal jurisdictions 

Do you live in Connecticut but are only licensed to work as an attorney in New York? Crazy as it sounds, you could be breaking star bar regulations if you’re taking an extended WFH break from the office. This situation  is exactly why legal experts may use the changes wrought from coronavirus to revise America’s jurisdictional practice rules, according to Law360.

  • A “historical accident”: That’s how Fordham Law professor Bruce Green describes the jurisdictional regulations that stipulate lawyers can only practice in the states in which they’ve gained license. In other countries, lawyers mostly practice national law. America’s system exists largely because it has always existed, dating back to when the states were British colonies. 

  • A change from local laws to subject matter expertise: In the early 20th century, lawyers focused on learning the ins-and-outs of a local jurisdiction. That strategy has evolved over the last several decades, as most lawyers now become experts in specific legal areas who could practice anywhere with a minimal learning curve. 

Big changes are unlikely

The odds of America following other countries and losing its state jurisdictional practice rules is unlikely (there are still more than a dozen states, including California, that don’t even accept the Uniform Bar Exam). But legal advocates want flexibility to be written into the rules, so lawyers know they’re in the clear to work from home, wherever that home may be. 

The Verdict

In the meantime, don’t sweat if you’ll be working from home in a different state than where you’re licensed for the foreseeable future. Although Washington DC is the only bar that has specifically stated its approval of this arrangement, experts say other bars are unlikely to crack down during the pandemic.