There are three basic components to an attorney’s eligibility to practice in the State of New Jersey: (1) annual registration, including making the required annual payments to the Lawyer’s Fund for Client Protection (N.J. Ct. R. 1:28); (2) fulfilling the bi-annual CLE reporting requirements; and (3) maintaining an IOLTA (Interest on Lawyers Trust Accounts) fund (N.J. Ct. R. 1:28A). Noncompliance with any of these requirements may render an attorney ineligible to practice.
Practicing law while ineligible may lead to ethics charges. In fact, the current eligibility of an attorney under investigation for other alleged ethical infractions is routinely checked by the relevant disciplinary authority. It is at this stage that an attorney may learn for the first time that (s)he is ineligible, perhaps through a completely innocent, technical oversight. An ethics investigation that would otherwise be dismissed may now have the potential of proceeding to a formal complaint depending on the length of time of practicing while ineligible and the likelihood that the attorney knew or should have known (s)he was ineligible.
Moreover, there may come a time where an attorney needs to be admitted pro hac vice, and quickly. You do not want to find out you are ineligible when you are in a crunch. Worse yet, you don’t want to inaccurately represent in a certification to the court that you are active and in good standing in your jurisdiction.
We recommend that you confirm your status is active by going to the attorney index, which is available here.
If for some reason you are deemed inactive, find out why and immediately take corrective steps. If you do so and the issue of your practicing while ineligible later surfaces, you will have a much higher chance of avoiding charge by having the infraction deemed as unknowing or de minimis.
Bonus tip: If you move law offices, you must update your address on your attorney registration. This is required under Rule 1:21-1(a), and noncompliance may and has led to ethics charges.