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Two New Jersey Supreme Court committees joined the national movement to abolish state barriers to lawyering on Wednesday and advised the justices to sweep away protectionist rules that have characterized New Jersey practice for a century. The panels said New Jersey admittees based elsewhere should be allowed to practice permanently without a bona fide office in New Jersey. They said experienced practitioners from other jurisdictions should be able to gain admission without taking the New Jersey bar examination. They also said in-house counsel not admitted in the state should be able to serve their corporations without fear of unauthorized practice rules. And they embraced American Bar Association recommendations that would usher in the cross-border lawyering many leaders of the State Bar dread. “The nature of the practice of law is changing,” the Ad Hoc Committee on Bar Admissions said, and that assumption permeated its report and that of the other panel, the Commission on Evaluation of the Rules of Professional Conduct. “It’s a recognition that lawyers in New Jersey, like lawyers in other states, practice in other states,” Stewart Pollock, the former New Jersey Supreme Court Justice who chaired the RPC Committee, said in a brief interview on Thursday. “I think that’s the reality.” Pollock’s committee also adopted a substantial number of proposals to modify almost 60 rules of professional conduct that circumscribe lawyers’ lives day in and day out. Pollock said he hoped attorneys would read the text of the reports. Not since 1995, when the state supreme court opened lawyer-discipline proceedings to the public, have the justices been handed so large an opportunity to shake up New Jersey practice traditions. The court, which created the committees last winter, scheduled an April 23, 2003, hearing on the reports. And if the justices go along with the recommendations, some barriers could start falling before the end of next year. But not before the State Bar Association has its say. The Bar, which opposed some of the proposals in their draft stage, would not comment last week until the reports were “critically studied and evaluated,” said President Richard Badolato. He did, however, take issue with proposals to relax admission examination requirements. “One of the consistent statistics repeated in the press is the large per capita number of lawyers in the state,” Badolato said. “Increasing this number by admitting more lawyers does not improve the quality of services to which the public has access.” PHILADELPHIA BAR ECSTATIC The Philadelphia Bar Association greeted the proposals with unbridled enthusiasm. That organization has been advocating the abolition of New Jersey’s office rule for years or, in the alternative, a ruling that a satellite convenience office in New Jersey for drop-in Philadelphia lawyers satisfies the bona fide office rule. That request would be moot under the proposal by the admission committee, chaired by Appellate Division Judge John Wallace. The panel proposed a change in New Jersey Court Rule 1:21-1(a) to say lawyers admitted to practice in New Jersey must have a bona fide office somewhere, but it does not have to be in New Jersey. The proposal recognizes that “for some clients it’s as convenient to go to Philadelphia or New York,” said Pollock, whose panel made a similar recommendation. Allan Gordon, chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association, said, “I’m delighted. It is the right thing to do and it’s consistent with the realities of practice in the 21st Century.” Chief among the committee proposals to liberalize admissions is a recommendation to add New Jersey to the list of about 15 states, including Pennsylvania and New York, that allow lawyers in good standing to gain admission without taking the state bar examination. Lawyers who have practiced in another state for five of the seven previous years could be admitted on motion in New Jersey, the admissions committee recommended. The option would not be available to lawyers from states that do not allow waivers. In August, when the proposal was included in the multijurisdictional practice model rules adopted by the ABA, two New Jersey delegates, Saul Wolfe and Michael Prigoff, voted against it. Prigoff said at the time that the model rule should have, at least, required applicants to pass a multistate bar exam. That’s not a requirement in Wednesday’s proposals, either. “We emphasize that admission on motion in the form that is presently proposed is likely to enrich the practice of law in this State, not diminish it, by increasing the available pool of knowledgeable attorneys,” the admissions committee said. Both panels’ multijurisdictional practice proposals are roughly similar to the ABA model rule adopted in August. Non-admitted in-house lawyers and lawyers from other states would be allowed to practice temporarily to handle matters for longstanding clients or clients who need particular expertise. At the same time, those lawyers would be required to pay New Jersey license fees and submit to the jurisdiction of disciplinary authorities. The RPC Commission recommended the elimination of the appearance-of-impropriety rule, RPC 1.7(c)(2), which was absent from the ABA model rules adopted in 1983 but was retained in New Jersey as a catchall offense. The State Bar argued that it was being used as a vehicle for mischievous, meritless, disqualification motions in litigation, and few lawyers came to the rule’s defense. Michael Griffinger of Newark, N.J.’s Gibbons, Del Deo, Dolan, Griffinger & Vecchione, who headed a consortium of large-firm opponents, said, “New Jersey is now in sync with the rest of the country and virtually every group that studied the appearance of impropriety rule and recommended its elimination.” The RPC Commission report includes a number of proposals important to criminal practitioners. It recommended that other lawyers in municipal prosecutors’ firms be allowed to represent criminal defendants in the prosecutor’s counties, but not in the prosecutor’s town, softening the potential full effect of State v. Clark, 162 N.J. 201(2000). RPC 1.6 would be expanded to require lawyers to disclose information that would prevent anyone’s illegal and fraudulent acts likely to result in death, bodily or financial injury, not just a client’s illegal and fraudulent acts. RPC 3.8 would be amended to put additional limits on prosecutors’ public statements about defendants and prosecutors’ rights to subpoena attorneys to present evidence against clients. Pollock said the commission worked hard to explore all the issues, and it is clear from the report that the members did not always agree. The commission supported, but was “closely divided,” on modifications of RPC 5.4 — the prohibition against fee sharing with nonlawyers — to permit attorneys to share court-awarded fees with nonprofit organizations. The report also suggested there was a lively debate over RPC 3.3(a)(5), which requires lawyers to disclose material facts to keep a tribunal from being misled. Concerned about the rule’s implication on lawyer-client relations, the commission considered modifications to lighten the burden of disclosure, but narrowly decided to leave the rule alone. Finally, if multijurisdictional practice is a wave of the present that must be accommodated, so are some of the more trendy forms of advertising, the commission reckoned. It recommended a rewrite of RPC 7.2(a) to drop the ban on drawings, animation, dramatization, music and lyrics in lawyer ads.

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