Cities in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic areas of the United States are very interconnected. Some have gone as far as to call the area ranging from New York and Boston down to Washington D.C., a “megalopolis,” essentially one giant city. Indeed, many people who live in the northeastern United States will reside in one area and commute to a city out of their home state. This is especially true for New York City, where people from D.C., Philly, New Jersey, and many other states will commute to go to work. Unfortunately, that also means that many accidents and injuries that happen in NYC will affect people from other states. When someone who lives in New Jersey gets hurt in NYC, they may not know what to do.
If you were injured in New York City, the controlling law will be the law of New York State, not the state of New Jersey. It is a good idea to have a New York City personal injury attorney represent you. This is because attorneys are licensed to practice by state, so a New Jersey attorney may not be licensed to practice in New York. However, if you live in another state, it does not mean that a New York attorney cannot represent you, and there are several ways that you can retain counsel from New York if you live out of state.
State Law Licenses Explained
When a lawyer-to-be passes their state bar examination and gets sworn in as an attorney, they get a license to practice law in the state where they are sworn in. This means that if an attorney is licensed to practice in State A, they cannot practice law in State B. In order for an attorney to be able to practice in both states, they need to be admitted to the State bar for both of them. New York’s bar example is known to be notoriously difficult, while New Jersey’s has a higher success rate.
Many states also allow attorneys to be admitted on a “motion.” Essentially, the lawyer needs to pay a fee, show that they work in their home state, and show that they have a law degree, and they will be admitted to practice law in another state. There is a list of states that New York accepts motions to be admitted from.
How New Jersey Attorneys Can Practice Law in New York or Other States
Although many lawyers are licensed to practice in only one state, there are procedures in place that will let lawyers represent clients in states where they are not licensed to practice law.
One of the most common methods is called pro hac vice representation. When an attorney represents someone pro hac vice, they are representing someone in a jurisdiction they are normally not licensed to practice law. However, a local attorney vouches for the out-of-state attorney and acts as what is called “local counsel.” Local counsel is there to assist with procedural matters and quirks of the law that can come up between two different states. That being said, the out-of-state attorney will be expected to make an effort to read up on how New York law works as opposed to New Jersey law.
Another way that an attorney from another state can practice in New York is if their state has “reciprocity.” Essentially, this means that attorneys who have been admitted to the bar in certain states are allowed to practice law in New York. Currently, New Jersey does have reciprocity with New York. Note, however, that in order for this to work, the attorney still has to apply to practice law in the state with reciprocity. Fortunately, New York commonly accepts these motions from New Jersey attorneys.
Should You Use a New Jersey Attorney or a Local One?
Since you can get an attorney from New Jersey to represent you in New York, you may be wondering whether it is a better idea to get a local attorney or stick with one from New Jersey. The answer is that it is going to depend on your specific situation. However, generally, it is advisable to retain local counsel if possible. Attorneys in New Jersey and New York are certainly just as capable of providing competent representation. That being said, problems can arise when there are discrepancies between the laws of the two states, so a local New York attorney may be the best option if you live in New Jersey but were injured in New York City.
Moreover, a case involving injuries that happen in New York City will likely need to be heard in a New York court. There are legal rules about where a court case is held depending on where they happen. These rules primarily exist to make sure that the case is heard as close as possible to where the important events took place. The reason for this is that all of the important evidence and witnesses will likely be in that location. attorneys cannot do what is called “forum shopping” – essentially picking their favorite court where they think they will have an advantage over their opponent.