Below is a law review article I wrote recently for the University of Dayton Law Review, Volume 36:1, entitled “Practicing Law Without an Office Address: How the Bona Fide Office Requirement Affects Virtual Law Practice.”
PRACTICING LAW WITHOUT AN OFFICE –
From the law review article (see citations in full version above):
This Article will examine virtual law practice as a necessary and inevitable solution to the globalization of law firms and the lack of access to justice in our country, and it will consider how bona fide office requirements in some states may work against this practice management method. Recent changes to the legal profession due to the globalization of law firms, trends in outsourcing of legal services, and the public demand for online legal services all indicate the need for a wider variety of law practice management structures with continued accountability and connection between the legal practitioner and the state bar.
While in some instances there are clear reasons why the bona fide office rules are in place, the text and comments of these provisions should be reevaluated to take into account the value to the public and to the profession of the use of technology to deliver legal services online. Not every client’s legal needs will be the same. Allowing for a variety of forms of law practice management structures, including virtual law practice and other e-lawyering methods, provides the public with options that fit appropriately with their legal needs. These structures also limit and take into account other factors that might keep the public from receiving legal services, such as time, location, intimidation, and the ability to budget for those services. This Article will propose ways in which the bona fide office requirements might be amended to include a virtual law practice that will benefit both the public and the profession.
Congrats, Stephanie! Not only do bona fide office rules impede lawyers from opening VLOs, but they also prevent them from taking advantage of co-working arrangements which have been a huge benefit to so many in the tech and business field. I hope that your proposal gains traction as the ABA reviews its existing rules.