Beneficial Changes To NJ Limited Licensing Rule

Wednesday, August 5, 2009 - 00:00

Two groups will benefit from recent changes to the Rule for in-house attorneys in New Jersey practicing under a limited license.The first will be low income, non-profit, and other organizations who depend on volunteer lawyers to provide free legal services.The second will be limited license attorneys who have or may lose their in-house position because of the downturn in the economy.

On June 3, 2009, the New Jersey Supreme Court amended its Supplemental Administrative Determinations (Determinations) regarding the practice of law under Rule 1:27-2 (the Rule).The Rule went into effect on January 1, 2004.The Determinations of the Court, originally published on March 1, 2004, have provided additional criteria and guidelines for practicing under the Rule.Besides this most recent amendment, the Court amended the Determinations in February 14, 2007, to clarify that the Rule is applicable to part-time attorneys employed by their organizational client (distinguishing from temporary or per diem attorneys).

Pro Bono Clients Benefit : Many limited license attorneys, as well as their employer companies, wanted to provide pro bono services to any number of deserving clients in the State.The type of services to be offered range from helping to adopt by-laws, forming a corporation, negotiating leases, or providing employee training. These services are outside what could be called traditional litigation assistance and are suitable to be provided by in-house counsel whose expertise is in areas other than litigation. The Court's original Determinations, however, only provided that limited license attorneys could provide volunteer services through one organization, Legal Services of New Jersey.With the recent amendment, limited license attorneys may provide volunteer services through any legal service organization approved under Rule 1:21-1(e), which could be close to a dozen organizations. If the practice will be before a court of the State, the notice requirements of Rule 1:21-3(c) must also be met.

Benefit to Those Transitioning Between Jobs: Under the original Determinations, limited license attorneys had 90 days to find new employment or they would lose their licenses. The cost and effort to re-apply for the license could be considerable. The amended ruling provides two potential benefits for attorneys looking for new employment.First, an attorney may be able to provide legal services to his former employer on a contract or per diem basis, even though he is are no longer employed by that organization.Second, the attorney will have up to one year to find new employment before having to reapply for his limited license.Attorneys will still need to notify the Court of their loss of employment within 90 days from the date of separation.Attorneys must also provide notice when they find new employment.

The above amendments resulted from requests made by the New Jersey Corporate Counsel Association (NJCCA) after receiving numerous comments from its members.The pro bono issue was the first to be raised and NJCCA worked with both the NJ State Bar Association and numerous pro bono service organizations to advocate for the changes to the Court.According to Lee Braem, Immediate Past President of NJCCA and Chair of its Advocacy Committee, "all of these organizations agreed that requesting the change was consistent with the long-standing policy to promote attorneys providing volunteer services." Early in 2009, when several members were facing involuntary termination from their employment, they asked NJCCA for assistance. "NJCCA hopes that these changes can somehow lessen the anxiety for those in transition," according to Braem.

The amended Determinations can be found at www.judiciary.state.nj.us/ notices/2009/n090608a.pdf or at www.njbarexams.org/incounsel.htm.