Thursday, May 20, 2021
The Florida Supreme Court approved an ethics opinion that an attorney's federal practice conducted out of his Florida home did not run afoul of unauthorized practice restrictions
Thomas Restaino, an out-of-state licensed attorney, filed with the Standing Committee a request for issuance of an advisory opinion on the issue of whether it constituted the unlicensed practice of law for him to work remotely from his Florida home solely on federal intellectual property matters for a New Jersey based law firm. The Standing Committee held a public hearing on Mr. Restaino’s request, after which it filed with the Court a proposed advisory opinion concluding that Mr. Restaino’s remote work activities do not constitute the unlicensed practice of law in Florida.
...Having considered the proposed opinion and the response filed, the Court hereby approves the proposed advisory opinion as set forth in the appendix to this opinion.
From the approved opinion
It is clear from the facts in Petitioner’s request and his testimony at the public hearing that Petitioner and his law firm will not be establishing a law office in Florida. It is equally clear that Petitioner will not be establishing a regular presence in Florida for the practice of law; he will merely be living here.
The facts raised in Petitioner’s request, quite simply, do not implicate the unlicensed practice of law in Florida. Petitioner is not practicing Florida law or providing legal services for Florida residents. Nor is he or his law firm holding out to the public as having a Florida presence. As Petitioner testified, “we . . . tr[ied] to make sure that no Florida citizens, no Florida businesses, certainly not the Florida courts, would have any exposure to me or . . . the work I was doing.”
It is the opinion of the Standing Committee that the Petitioner who simply establishes a residence in Florida and continues to provide legal work to out-of-state clients from his private Florida residence under the circumstances described in this request does not establish a regular presence in Florida for the practice of law. Consequently, it is the opinion of the Standing Committee that it would not be the unlicensed practice of law for Petitioner, a Florida domiciliary employed by a New Jersey law firm (having no place of business or office in Florida), to work remotely from his Florida home solely on matters that concern federal intellectual property rights (and not Florida law) and without having or creating a public presence or profile in Florida as an attorney.