Legal Ethics

Attorney with Big Ad Budget Can Open Law Office LLC in 49th State, Court Says

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In a ruling that is sure to disappoint competing firms that sought to block a national attorney known for his blockbuster advertising budget from establishing a local foothold, the Rhode Island Supreme Court today ruled that James Sokolove can form a law firm limited liability corporation there. It will be the 49th state in which he has an office.

Although previous news coverage had indicated that Sokolove did not intend to establish a bricks-and-mortar presence in the state, but simply refer business to a local attorney, the court’s written opinion (PDF) says that Rhode Island lawyer Brian Farrell, who expects to handle much of Sokolove’s referral work, is a member of Sokolove Law LLC. It will be operated from Farrell’s current law office.

Competitors claimed that the planned Sokolove set-up would violate attorney ethics rules, because it would promote improper fee-splitting, the opinion notes. But while “Sokolove Law LLC may not fall within the traditional boundaries of the practice of law in Rhode Island, we are hopeful that, as represented, the LLC will operate in compliance with our rules,” the supreme court writes, noting that the nature of the profession has recently been changing at “lightning speed.”

Hat tip: ABC News.

Additional coverage: “‘Ad Agency’ Law Firm’s Business Booms; $50 Million Campaign Envisioned” “Lawyer Seeks Right to Advertise in R.I., a State in Which He Has No Office”

Providence Journal: “R.I. Supreme Court allows lawyer James Sokolove to open local office”

Updated on Jan. 22 to add link to subsequent Providence Journal article.

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