In this article we review a number of recent developments touching on diverse parts of the professional responsibility universe, from conflicts of interest issues that arise when a judge’s former law clerk works in a law firm with a matter in front of the judge for whom the law clerk formerly worked, through a case that considers when departing lawyers tortiously interfere with their former firm’s business, to the latest legislative efforts to remedy the inequitable treatment of New York lawyers who reside outside the state.
Beginning in the New York State Senate, a bill was passed nearly unanimously earlier this month repealing §470 of the New York Judiciary Law. Readers of this column may recall a series of articles bemoaning the unfairness of the rule requiring New York-admitted lawyers in good standing but residing outside of the state to maintain a physical office in New York while no such rule applies to lawyers who reside in the state. In Schoenefeld v. Schneiderman (11-4283-cv, April 22, 2016), the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit declined to find the rule unconstitutional. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has focused a spotlight on the problem. As reported in Law360, bill sponsor Sen. Brad Hoylman, D-Manhattan stated that “New York’s laws ought to reflect the technological advancements of the last century, which make it possible for licensed attorneys to fully perform their services from outside of New York.” The bill had the strong support of the New York State Bar Association, which noted that today upwards of 25% of New York admitted lawyers live outside the state. The bill now moves to the New York State Assembly where hopefully it will receive the same level of approval.