January 19, 2016 Articles

New York's Highest Court Clarifies Nonresident Attorney Office Requirement

After Schoenefeld, New York will presumably, albeit grudgingly, move toward acceptance of VLOs, consistent with the realities of practicing law in a digital age.

Kaitlin J. Kline

The New York Court of Appeals, New York’s highest court, recently resolved the central question that may well determine the constitutionality of New York’s nonresident attorney office requirement, New York Judiciary Law section 470. Schoenefeld v. New York, 25 N.Y.3d 22 (N.Y. Mar. 31, 2015). The court of appeals held that, to satisfy section 470’s mandate that nonresident attorneys maintain an office within the state of New York for the transaction of law business, nonresident attorneys must maintain a physical office in New York.

Almost a year earlier, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit requested guidance from the Court of Appeals of New York on the issue of what would minimally satisfy section 470’s nonresident attorney office requirement. The Second Circuit certified the following “controlling question” to the New York Court of Appeals: “Under New York Judiciary Law Section 470, which mandates that a nonresident attorney maintain an ‘office for the transaction of law business’ within the state of New York, what are the minimum requirements necessary to satisfy that mandate?” Schoenefeld v. New York, 748 F.3d 464, 471 (2d Cir. Apr. 8, 2014). 

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