“The continued spread of COVID-19 has resulted in lawyers across the country working remotely for months on end, including in jurisdictions where they are not licensed to practice law.
While this trend prioritizes public health and provides workers with increased flexibility, it could also raise ethical issues for some attorneys.
That’s because many states have adopted rules of professional conduct making it the unauthorized practice of law for a duly licensed lawyer to practice remotely from a jurisdiction where he or she is not admitted for longer than a temporary period and without meeting several stringent requirements. These state regulations are typically based on ABA Model Rule 5.5.
Heading into 2021, ethics attorneys say they are hopeful that lawyers’ success in working from home during COVID-19 will prompt U.S. jurisdictions with stringent remote working ethics rules to modify them.
“If this pandemic points out anything, it is that where lawyers are located when they do their work doesn’t really matter,” says Eric Cooperstein, an ethics lawyer in Minnesota. “If we can go a year with lawyers practicing remotely from other jurisdictions, well then, why can’t we do that all the time?”