I serve as the chair of the Committee on Professional Ethics for the New York City Bar Association. The committee recently issued a formal opinion concerning the use of virtual law offices by New York attorneys. We concluded that it is permissible for New York lawyers to use the street address of a virtual law office as the “principal law office address” under Rule 7.1(h) of the New York Rules of Professional Conduct, as well as on business cards, letterhead and law firm websites.

By “virtual law office,” the committee means “a physical location that offers business services and facilities, such as private or semi-private work spaces, conference rooms, telephones, printers, photocopy machines, and mail drop services to lawyers.”

On June 11, 2014, the New York Law Journal printed a letter from a New York attorney suggesting that the opinion be amended to require lawyers who use virtual law offices to appoint an agent for service of process. The letter focuses on an important aspect of this issue. Attorneys who use virtual law offices must provide for service of process. Please note that this subject is addressed in Section III. D of the opinion, as recorded below.

D. Personal Delivery and Acceptance of Service: Finally, because a significant concern underlying Judiciary Law §470 and Rule 7.1(h) is the availability of an address for purposes of personal delivery and acceptance of service of process, a lawyer using the VLO’s services also should provide for personal delivery and acceptance of service. This can be done either by: (a) identifying an agent for these purposes or (b) arranging for the VLO to accept service of process on the attorney’s behalf. Where a VLO is authorized to accept service of process, the attorney must ensure that the VLO communicates with the attorney concerning the receipt of any materials with sufficient promptness to meet all professional and ethical requirements.”

We appreciate the opportunity to draw attention to this aspect of the opinion and to emphasize the importance of providing for service of process when using a virtual law office.

Nicole Hyland
The author, chair of the city bar’s professional ethics committee,
is a partner at Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz.