NEWARK, NJ – New Jersey attorneys are free and clear to use virtual offices – finally. The state put the kibosh on its so-called bona fide office rule, clearing the way for the virtual law office trend to make its mark on the Garden State. The new rule change just came down from the state Supreme Court on Jan. 17.
“Lawyering is a service oriented business, and I think the new rules are a win-win for both lawyers and clients,” Chatham, N.J., lawyer Matthew Stoloff, who had filed a petition seeking to overturn the ethics opinion, told BNA.
Virtual offices are a popular option for lawyers with home offices. They rely on virtual receptionists to handle incoming calls and use the virtual office provider’s conference rooms to hold client meetings.
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But the Advisory Committee on Professional Ethics and the Committee on Attorney Advertising said in a joint opinion that New Jersey lawyers who are using virtual offices were violating Rule 1:21-1(a) – until now.
Richard Granat, who co-chairs the eLawyering Task Force of the ABA Law Practice Management Section, told BNA the change is “a balanced approach that protects the interests of clients while enabling law firms to take advantage of the economic and other benefits of virtual law practice technology including the online delivery of legal services.”
Alliance Virtual Offices sees the changed rule as good news for the entire virtual office industry.
If states across the country decide to limit the use of virtual offices, and if other industries begin to follow suit, it could slow the skyrocketing virtual office movement. We never expected that to happen. New Jersey was one of the few states that adheres to the bona fide office space rule. But who expected virtual offices to make such a splash on the commercial real estate scene to begin with? Few.
One thing is certain: it’s not good news for upstart attorneys who can’t afford traditional office space.