Saturday, 27 April 2013

"Pros or Cons" Thoughts For The Modern "Sports Attorney" - Part II

Sports Law Blog is publishing a 5-part series on the practice of sports law.  The series is co-authored by Peter Jarvis, a legal ethics and professional responsibility attorney with Hinshaw & Culbertson, LLP in Portland, Oregon and Jason Davis, a California attorney currently residing in Seattle, Washington.  These posts will appear on Saturdays.   The first one is available at this link.  Here is the second one:


"Pros or Cons" Thoughts For The Modern "Sports Attorney"
Authored by Jason A. Davis, Esq. and Peter R. Jarvis, Esq. (all rights reserved)

Home Field Advantage? (Choice of Ethics Law)

As a general proposition, an attorney who is licensed and practices only in one state will be governed by the Rules of Professional Conduct, or RPCs, of that state. When, however, an attorney is licensed in more than one state or the attorney's practice crosses state lines, the picture gets more complex. Of course, an attorney receives and maintains the ability to practice law by virtue of the licensing authority of the jurisdiction(s) in which the attorney is licensed. When the rules of the various jurisdictions are the same, this does not matter. But what if they are different? Which set(s) of ethical rules govern which of the attorney's actions?

In our first segment, we introduced Attorney Al, who is licensed in both New Jersey and New York. Which state's Rules govern Al's representation of his client Mega Star? Fortunately, RPC 8.5 of these two states are substantially similar to each other and to the equivalent ABA Model Rule. New Jersey's RPC 8.5, which is identical to ABA Model Rule 8.5, state in pertinent part:

Rule 8.5 Disciplinary Authority; Choice Of Law
(a) Disciplinary Authority. A lawyer admitted to practice in this jurisdiction is subject to the disciplinary authority of this jurisdiction, regardless of where the lawyer's conduct occurs. (...) A lawyer may be subject to the disciplinary authority of both this jurisdiction and another jurisdiction for the same conduct. (Emphasis added)

(b)(2) for [conduct not involving litigation], the rules of the jurisdiction in which the lawyer’s conduct occurred, or, if the predominant effect of the conduct is in a different jurisdiction, the rules of that jurisdiction shall be applied to the conduct. A lawyer shall not be subject to discipline if the lawyer’s conduct conforms to the rules of a jurisdiction in which the lawyer reasonably believes the predominant effect of the lawyer’s conduct will occur. (Emphasis added)

New York's Rule 8.5 varies at (2)(ii) in that if the lawyer is licensed to practice in New York “and another jurisdiction, the rules to be applied shall be the rules of the admitting jurisdiction in which the lawyer principally practices; provided, however, that if particular conduct clearly has its predominant effect in another jurisdiction in which the lawyer is licensed to practice, the rules of that jurisdiction shall be applied to that conduct.” (Emphasis added)

Depending at least in part upon Al's geographic location at the time of this work, one could theoretically pick New York, New Jersey, California or Texas as the location where most of Al's conduct in aid of the representation occurred. And looking at the location of "predominant effect" may not provide a clear answer. Is it New York, because that is where Mega now lives? In California or Texas if he signs with either of those teams? As will be noted, at least the New Jersey rule provides, as a safe harbor, that Al need only conform his conduct to the rules of a state which he reasonably believes is the state of predominant effect.

But if, say, the predominant effect is in a state in which Al is not licensed, will he be subject to discipline or prosecution for the Unauthorized Practice of Law? This topic to be continued . . .

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