What Constitutes Virtual Presence?
The ABA Commission on Ethics 20/20 has released a new issues paper entitled “Issues Paper Concerning Model Rule of Professional Conduct 5.5 and the Limits of Virtual Presence in a Jurisdiction.”
The Commission’s previous issues paper regarding systemic and continuous presence under 5.5 came out last September and raised some of the same questions. I posted my summary of that here. The Commission’s newest request for feedback on the issue of presence has a deadline of July 31st and they specifically request to hear from virtual practitioners who would be affected by any changes to Model Rule 5.5, in particular Comment  to Rule 5.5(b). The proposed change to this would state:
For example, a lawyer may direct electronic or other forms of communications to potential clients in this jurisdiction and consequently establish a substantial practice representing clients in this jurisdiction, but without a physical presence here. At some point, such a virtual presence in this jurisdiction may be come systematic and continuous within the meaning of Rule 5.5(b)(1).
Check out the hypothetical of a virtual law practice posted by Andy Perlman on the Legal Ethics Forum blog. I’m attending a LSC Tech Summit this week so a longer response from me to this new call for comments will have to wait. There are so many potential and emerging business models that incorporate virtual practice. I hope the Commission receives a variety of comments from practitioners.