So, all I had to do follow those 6 easy steps. After much more searching and phone calls. Leaving messages without return calls and more web searching this is what I came up with. I did finally reach someone at the NJ Board of Bar Examiners that confessed to receiving my card and had it in his hand. He said that at the moment of my taking the Attorney’s Oath then I was o.k. to practice law. So many conflicting messages.
- I am guessing that my initial annual assessment was paid when I applied for the NJ bar exam. Maybe they will send me a renewal? Maybe so, maybe not.
- The attorney annual registration statement must have been included in the initial application for the bar exam as well. Another guess.
- Maintain a bona fide office under R.1:21-1(a)! Finally, something a new lawyer can sink his teeth into! A rule! See http://www.judiciary.state.nj.us/rules/r1-21.htm. What I gleaned from this is that I needed a place where clients are met, files are kept, the telephone is answered, mail is received and the attorney or a responsible person acting on the attorney’s behalf can be reached in person and by telephone during normal business hours to answer questions posed by the courts, clients or adversaries and to ensure that competent advice from the attorney can be obtained within a reasonable period of time. This office, for the purposes of this section, may be located in this or any other state, territory of the United States, Puerto Rico, or the District of Columbia. Well, this makes me feel better as it is so clear. So, I can practice in NJ as long as I have an office somewhere. This is good because I live in another state. I am not sure why a bona fide office in Puerto Rico would be a convenient place for my NJ clients to meet but that is what the rule says so I am good to go here. I was pleased that in the text of R.1:21 there was a reference to Rule 1:26. When I look that up, this is what I found. http://www.judiciary.state.nj.us/rules/r1-26.htm. :-).
- Next requirements to fulfill were those found in R. 1:21-6 which discusses recordkeeping requirements http://www.judiciary.state.nj.us/oae/links/rule1216/rule1216.htm. So, what my keen legal mind ascertained from this was that I needed:
- A business account into which all funds from professional services are deposited
- An Attorney Trust Fund (separate account) where unearned and trust funds are deposited. This account is designated as an IOLTA account. Once created, the account must be registered with http://www.ioltanj.org/. You download the registration form from the box on the lower left hand corner and, if you expect to have less than $2,500 in the account you select the registration form. If more than $2,500 then you select the participation form.
- In order to comply with this section of the rules you must use an approved bank. The list of approved banks is found here: http://www.judiciary.state.nj.us/oae/banklist.htm.
- Before you can open an account, however, you must have an IRS issued EIN. No bank will open a business account without it. You can procure one instantly online at https://sa2.www4.irs.gov/modiein/individual/index.jsp. Now, a word of caution. If you have not decided on whether you will be a sole proprietor or some type of corporation you will have to stop here and put some thought into that. I chose to go with a sole proprietor structure until such time as my colleagues and I create a partnership. This way I can begin practice right away. The EIN is simple and straightforward. Unlike most other parts of this process the results are almost instant and you did not have to pull out your credit card.
- When you decide on a bank (from the approved list) plan to spend an hour or so at the bank (which must be located in NJ even if there are branches in the tri-state area). Take photo ID, proof of being admitted to the bar (I had a copy of my Attorney Oath Card because the state had STILL not entered my name on the online checking system), and your EIN letter from the IRS. This and a small minimal deposit (i used $25 / each account) and you are on your way. You should pick a bank that waives the service charge for balances below $500 for both the business checking as well as attorney trust accounts. Also, NJ state rules require that the accounts are labeled as such on the checks and deposit slips.
- Don’t forget the annual registration form http://www.judiciary.state.nj.us/cpf/annual.htm.
- Bookkeeping requirements are essential to any good business and are also required by the state under rule 1:21-6(c), et seq. http://www.judiciary.state.nj.us/oae/links/rule1216/rule1216.htm.
- IOLTA accounts must be maintained in compliance with Rule 1:28A as follows: http://www.judiciary.state.nj.us/rules/r1-28a.htm.
- Finally, an attorney is required to maintain malpractice insurance. A colleague of mine turned me on to a provider of NJ malpractice insurance at www.willis.com. They will ask you a ton of questions and have you fill out forms. Ask for Kurt Taylor. Malpractice for new attorneys is quite reasonable and varies depending on the type of law you plan to practice.
So there you have it… Just like that, you can start a law practice in New Jersey