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The Mobile Practice of Law

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Work from home, your car, or wherever life happens to take you?  The practice of law is forever changing, and so must the interpretation of the Rules of Professional Conduct.  Rule 7.2(c) requires that any communication about the lawyer’s services include an office address.  The State Bar has traditionally interpreted that requirement to mean a physical office address or street address, no post offices boxes.  That meant that your letterhead, advertising materials, website, and business cards could not include solely a post office box, but had to include a physical street address.  This proved to be a tough requirement for persons engaging in a virtual law practice or those choosing to work primarily from home.

A new proposed ethics opinion that changes this interpretation may be coming out soon.  The State Bar staff counsel is recommending that post office boxes listings on attorney communications be sufficient to satisfy Rule 7.2(c).  The opinion has not been finally approved by the ethics committee yet, but it will be on the agenda come April.  The staff proposal would also place limits on the ability of attorneys to include in communications listings of office locations where they do no have a continuous presence.  A number of attorneys lease meeting room space on an as needed basis, just so they can list an office in that locale.  The new opinion, if approved by the Ethics Committee, would say it is misleading for a lawyer to use a leased office address on letterhead or in advertising to infer that the lawyer has a presence in a community when in fact the lawyer only has the ability to lease meeting rooms in that community on an as needed basis.   This restriction would not apply to attorneys who choose to primarily work from home but regularly use nearby office suites or an executive office arrangement to meet with clients.