On December 10, 2019, the New Jersey Supreme Court’s Advisory Committee on Professional Ethics issued Opinion Number 55 to provide additional guidance on when an out-of-state lawyer can practice immigration law in New Jersey.

The Opinion stems in part from an earlier opinion (No. 44, October 2008) issued by the Committee on the Unauthorized Practice of Law concluding that out-of-state lawyers may practice immigration law in New Jersey if they “associate with New Jersey attorneys in a New Jersey law firm.”  The Advisory Committee on Professional Ethics was recently asked to clarify the meaning of “associating with” and whether an “of-counsel” relationship will satisfy the requirement.

The Committee declined to rely on labels or titles such as “of counsel” in answering the question, and, instead, provided a functional definition of “associating with New Jersey attorneys in a New Jersey law firm.”  Regardless of the attorney’s title, (s)he must “be present in the firm and closely involved with the law firm’s practice in order to serve in the required oversight role and to provide any collateral State law issue.”  Notably, this requirement is more stringent than the definition for “of counsel” the Committee on Attorney Advertising had provided in an unrelated opinion allowing a “relatively transitory relationship[] to the firm” or the performance of frequent per diem work.”

The Advisory Committee on Professional Ethics’ Opinion Number 55 can be found here, and the Committee on the Unauthorized Practice of Law’s Opinion Number 44 here (the latter of which also addresses related advertising issues).