The relevant rule governing “retirement” for purposes of not paying the biennial $375 dues:
(g) Each registration statement filed pursuant to this section shall be accompanied by a registration fee of $375. No fee shall be required from an attorney who certifies that he or she has retired from the practice of law. For purposes of this section, the “practice of law” shall mean the giving of legal advice or counsel to, or providing legal representation for, particular body or individual in a particular situation in either the public or private sector in the State of New York or elsewhere, it shall include the appearance as an attorney before any court or administrative agency. An attorney is “retired” from the practice of law when, other than the performance of legal services without compensation, he or she does not practice law in any respect and does not intend ever to engage in acts that constitute the practice of law. For purposes of section 468-a of the Judiciary Law, a full-time judge or justice of the Unified Court System of the State of New York or of a court of any other state or of a federal court, shall be deemed “retired” from the practice of law. An attorney in good standing, at least 55 years old and with at least 10 years experience, who participates without compensation in an approved pro bono legal services program, may enroll as an “attorney emeritus.”
and does not intend ever to engage in acts that constitute the practice of law.
Which suggests retirement is final and irreversible. On that ground I paid my dues every two years, though I haven’t practiced law more than a few times in the last decade.
I was told by a bright man at the Office of Court Administration that coming out of retirement is easily done. It is a simple process, though, apparently, a secret one. You request a Rescind Waiver Form, fill it out, submit it along with the full biennial dues for that period, and take one Continuing Legal Education credit for each month going forward. A matter of a few weeks to come out of retirement, no problem.
I told him that I had no doubt about what he’d told me but that, as a lawyer, I needed something in writing to that effect. This is because if I acted relying on a statement of the rules he sent me in writing, I’d have an excellent defense if it ever came to that. He obliged by sending this email, which is not part of any rule or contained in any on-line guide one can access:
A link to the registration rules can be found here: www.nycourts.gov/rules/chiefadmin/118.shtml
NYS does not have an inactive status as may be available in other jurisdictions.
The retirement certification may only be claimed if you do not practice law in New York or elsewhere and do not intend ever to engage in acts that constitute the practice of law. If you meet the definition you may sign the retirement exemption and the biennial registration fee of $375 is waived. As a retired attorney you would remain a duly admitted NY attorney and there would be no bar to you filing on a future registration as active – additionally, Part 118.1(g) allows retired attorneys to continue to perform legal services without compensation. Therefore, since you remain a duly admitted attorney you would still be required to register every two years.
and do not intend ever to engage in acts that constitute the practice of law.
The devil cavorts in the legal details, yo. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, they say, including, I suppose, the intention never to engage in acts that constitute the practice of law.