A lawyer may use the street address of a “virtual law office,” or VLO, as a “principal law office address” as contemplated in the New York Rules of Professional Conduct, the New York City Bar Association said in a new ethics opinion.
In Opinion 2014-02, the bar’s Committee on Professional Ethics said Rule 7.1, which governs attorney advertising and requires disclosure of a physical address, would not be undermined, and in fact would be advanced, by the use of a VLO.
VLOs, or firms that meet the legal needs of their clients over the Internet or through other technology, are an emerging trend in the profession.
Rule 7.1 requires attorneys who advertise to include the address of their principal office to ensure that potential clients can decide whether the lawyer is conveniently available and able to practice in the geographic location where the ad is displayed.
In its opinion, the city bar committee said the fact that a lawyer uses a VLO “may itself be a relevant factor in selecting or rejecting a particular lawyer.” Additionally, it said “economic conditions in the legal world and technological developments persuade us that we should not create obstacles to the use of VLOs, as long as the interests of clients, the courts, and the legal system are protected.”