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Policy Library

BBO Moves to Mandatory Online Registration for Attorneys

September 01, 2016

We want to give you the inside scoop on a major change being implemented this year that affects all attorneys in the state—that’s right, we’re talking about online registration with the Board of Bar Overseers (BBO).  Over the summer, you should have received an email that looked like this:


Mandatory Online Registration for Attorneys Goes Into Effect September 1, 2016

Dear Attorney:

The Board of Bar Overseers (BBO) has announced that all attorneys admitted to practice law in Massachusetts are required to submit their registrations online at effective September 1, 2016. Click here for the notice announcing the new requirement and answers to frequently asked questions regarding online registration. Here are the answers to some key questions that you need to know:

  1. Who is required to register online?
    All attorneys admitted to, or engaging in, the practice of law in this Commonwealth are required to register online, with certain exceptions.
  2. What are the exceptions?
    The requirement doesn’t apply to newly admitted attorneys and attorneys who are registered as “pro bono inactive” and “pro bono retired” statuses. Certain other categories of attorneys are also exempt, including those who are not admitted to practice in Massachusetts, but must register with the BBO. Otherwise, the Board will handle requests to be excused from the requirement on a case-by-case basis.
  3. When do I need to register online?
    You are required to register online if your registration expires onSeptember 1, 2016. If you register in the December, March or June cycles, you will have to register online when you next renew.
  4. What do I do if I have questions?
    Please see attached to read the answers to all of the frequently asked questions about the new requirement or call the Registration Department at (617) 728-8800between 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. or email at

“The change makes registration more efficient and cost-effective, and brings the process for attorneys in line with other professional boards that require online registration, including the Board of Registration in Medicine,” said Donna Jalbert Patalano, chair of the BBO and Chief of Professional Integrity & Ethics at the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office. The Registration Department is ready to help attorneys with the new requirement. We thank you in advance for your compliance with this new initiative.

The information in this email is also available at

Registration Department
Board of Bar Overseers
99 High Street
Boston, MA 02110
(617) 728-8800


The goal of the BBO is to have all attorneys register on-line.  They recognize, however, that some attorneys will need exemptions.  Attorneys can apply for an exemption by writing to the BBO and must include the following information with the request:

  1. BBO number;
  2. Attorney name (First, Middle Initial, Last, Suffix);
  3. Mailing, business email address and phone number;
  4. A statement under oath demonstrating good cause for the requested exemption;
  5. Documents supporting the request (e.g., from doctor or medical provider, guardian, designated power of attorney, etc.)

During the review of an exemption request, the BBO’s Registration Department will send the requesting attorney a paper registration form for the current cycle.  The BBO will then provide a determination on the exemption, and the requesting attorney will have a year to prepare to register via the required method in the next cycle.

However, we recommend that you make every effort to register online, and for good reason.  Though it may cost you a small extra fee for credit cards (the BBO is using the same payment platform as the City of Boston, which assures the highest level of security but has built-in, unavoidable credit card fees—but no additional fee for an electronic funds transfer), it will save everyone time and money in the long run.  Paper attorney registration is extremely labor intensive, and that comes with a cost.  Over the years, the Board has paid significant overtime and postal costs related paper registrations.  Online registration promises to greatly reduce that expense.  The savings are being passed on to lawyers, as this year the registration fee will again not increase.  That is also why agencies like the Board of Registration in Medicine moved to on-line registration, or OLR, a number of years ago.

For those who are still not convinced, we ask you to review Massachusetts Rules of Professional Conduct (MRPC) Rule 1.1 on competence, which states in relevant part that “competent representation requires the legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness, and preparation reasonably necessary for the representation.”  Comment 8 to the MRPC explains further that maintaining competence includes “keep[ing] abreast of changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology.”

Thus not only is registering online more convenient and significantly more cost-effective than paper registration, but staying abreast with the technology used for OLR (by having an email address and using a computer) is also part of your ethical obligations as an attorney.  We hope that this shift in registration format goes smoothly and look forward to helping facilitate the continuing exchange of concerns and ideas between the BBO and the bar.

– Jonathan Schreiber
Legislative and Public Policy Manager
Boston Bar Association