Login | December 01, 2021

New remote out-of-state attorney rules adopted

Technology for Lawyers

Published: October 1, 2021

The Ohio Supreme Court has adopted a few new rules controlling the ability of out-of-state attorneys to remotely practice law in the state.
The rules comprise amendments to the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 5.5 and the Supreme Court Rules for the Government of the Bar of Ohio in Gov. Bar R. I, Section 19 and Gov. Bar R. XII, Section 2.
The amendments acknowledge the shift in office work that has taken place recently, and particularly during the pandemic, in which remote work has become more and more common. In the legal profession, remote hearings, arraignments, and other legal proceedings have successfully migrated to remote platforms. Now, this migration continues on into the office itself.
The amendments, which went into effect September 1, allow a member of an out-of-state bar and who is also not a member of the Ohio bar to provide legal services remotely to that state from a location in Ohio. In other words, an Indiana lawyer who is not licensed to practice here can practice remotely from a home here to Indiana, subject to a set of rules that will keep the lawyer from practicing law without a license.
This practice is restricted in several ways.
The out-of-state lawyer cannot state, imply or hold himself out to be a member of the Ohio bar if he is not. This includes not being able to solicit business in Ohio or appear before tribunals. If any letterhead or other materials indicate an Ohio address, those materials also need to state that the lawyer is not a member of the Ohio bar (Prof. Conduct R. 5.5(d)(4) and (e)).
Comments to these amendments include that these lawyers must determine if additional safeguards are necessary to protect their clients, including additional computer security and backup measures and additional security in whatever communication platforms the lawyer and client employ.
The remote lawyer must also continue to comply with the rules of the lawyer’s home jurisdiction regarding trust accounts and handling client money.
The remote lawyer will avoid being convicted of practicing law without a license if he conforms to all of this. But if he doesn’t….?