Professional Guidelines

An agency of the Supreme Court of Virginia

The Virginia State Bar

Professional Guidelines

3. Classes of Membership—

Members of the Virginia State Bar shall be divided into five classes, namely:  (a) Active Members, (b) Associate Members, (c) Judicial Members, (d) Disabled and Retired Members; and (e) Emeritus Members.  Each member shall submit in writing to the membership department of the Virginia State Bar an address of record which will be used for all membership and regulatory purposes, including official mailings and notices of disciplinary proceedings.  If a member’s address of record is not a physical address where process can be served, the member must submit in writing to the membership department an alternate address where process can be served. The alternate address is personal information and shall not be disclosed pursuant to Section 2.2-3704, Code of Virginia. Members have a duty promptly to notify the membership department in writing of any changes in either the address of record or any alternate address. Members, by request, may have their names and addresses removed from the Virginia State Bar's membership list when it is distributed for other than official purposes. 

  • (a) Active Members—Those attorneys who are admitted to practice law in this state and who are engaged in the practice of law, either full-time or part-time, salaried or non-salaried, shall be active members of the Virginia State Bar.  Those attorneys who are admitted to practice law in this state, but who are not presently so engaged, may acquire active status by paying the dues prescribed for active members and satisfying any other required membership obligations.  Each active member’s address of record will establish the judicial circuit in which the member is entitled to vote and hold office in the Virginia State Bar.
  • (b) Associate Members—Those attorneys who have been admitted to practice law in the courts of this state but who are not presently so engaged and all persons on the law faculties of any law schools of this state that have been approved by the American Bar Association may become associate members of the Virginia State Bar upon application to the secretary and payment of the required dues.  Associate members shall be entitled to all the privileges of active members except that they may not practice law, vote or hold office (other than as members of committees) in the Virginia State Bar.
  • (c) Judicial Members—All full-time judges of the State (including federal judges), other officers qualified but forbidden by statute to practice law, and all retired judges who are receiving retirement benefits and are prohibited from appearing as counsel in any case in any court of the Commonwealth under section 51.1-309 of the Code of Virginia shall constitute the Judicial Membership of the Virginia State Bar.  They shall pay no dues but shall be entitled to all of the privileges of active members except that they may not vote or hold office in the Virginia State Bar, and shall comply with any statutory limitations regulating their practice of law.
  • (d) Disabled and Retired Members—Any member of the Virginia State Bar upon attaining the age of 70 or on the basis of a permanent disability, may submit to the executive director of the Virginia State Bar a written request to be transferred to the disabled and retired class of membership.  Members who are electing this status based on a permanent disability must submit adequate medical and/or psychological documentation with the request.  Members qualifying for transfer to the disabled and retired class shall not be entitled to practice law.  Further, such members shall not be eligible to vote or hold office in the Virginia State Bar.  Disabled and retired members may submit a petition to the executive director in writing for reinstatement to active or associate membership and state in the petition each circumstance that has changed since the member elected disabled or retired status.  Adequate medical and/or psychological documentation must be submitted with the petition showing that the member is fit and capable of practicing law.  If there are any misconduct complaints or proceedings pending when the executive director receives a petition for reinstatement, or if the member appears to suffer from a disability, the executive director shall defer consideration of the petition until the misconduct or disability issues are resolved.  The Executive Committee of the Virginia State Bar shall consider and act on any such petition, taking into account the recommendation of the executive director.  The Executive Committee may deny a petition for reinstatement if the member is publicly disciplined or is determined to have a disability raising a serious question as to the member’s fitness or capacity to practice law.  If the Executive Committee approves the petition, the member shall be returned to active or associate status upon payment of the appropriate dues, satisfaction of any other required membership obligations, and payment of any outstanding financial obligations to the bar.  Medical and/or psychological information provided pursuant to this subparagraph (d) is confidential and shall not be disclosed by the bar.
  • (e) Emeritus Members— Those attorneys who are admitted to practice law in the Commonwealth of Virginia may, upon request to the Virginia State Bar with the supporting materials specified in this subparagraph, become emeritus members and provide pro bono legal services to the poor and working poor as emeritus members subject to the terms and conditions stated in this subparagraph.  They shall pay no dues, may not practice law except in the limited manner specified in this subparagraph, and may not vote or hold office in the Virginia State Bar.

    • (1) Definitions.
      • (A) Active practice of law, for the purposes of this subparagraph, means that an attorney has been engaged in the practice of law, which includes private practice, corporate practice as authorized by Part One A, Rule 1A:5, public employment as a lawyer, or full-time teaching at an American Bar Association approved law school.
      • (B) Emeritus member is any person who is admitted to practice law in the Commonwealth of Virginia, who is retiring or has retired from the active practice of law, and who intends to provide pro bono services under this subparagraph; and
        • (i) Intends to provide pro bono legal services as defined by Rule 6.1(a) of the Virginia Rules of Professional Conduct and its comments, subject to the terms and conditions of this subparagraph; and
        • (ii) Is, at the time of requesting emeritus member status, an active, associate, or retired member in good standing of the Virginia State Bar who has practiced law for 20 years or more; and
        • (iii) Is, at the time of requesting emeritus status, an active, associate, or retired member who has not been disciplined for professional misconduct by the bar or courts of any jurisdiction within the past fifteen years; and
        • (iv)Has been engaged in the active practice of law for a minimum of five out of the seven years immediately preceding the application to become an emeritus member; and 
        • (v)Agrees to neither ask for nor receive any compensation of any kind from the client, except for out-of-pocket expenses, for the legal service to be rendered under this subparagraph.
      • (C) Qualified legal services provider, for the purposes of this subparagraph, is a Virginia licensed legal aid society or other not-for-profit entity organized in whole or in part, to provide legal services to the poor and/or working poor in Virginia.
    • (2) Activities.
      • (A) An emeritus member, in association with a qualified legal services provider, may perform only the following activities:
        • (i) The emeritus member may appear in any court or before an administrative tribunal or arbitrator in the Commonwealth of Virginia on behalf of a client of a qualified legal services provider.
        • (ii) The emeritus member may prepare and sign pleadings and other documents to be filed in any court or with any administrative tribunal or arbitrator in this state in any matter in which the emeritus member is involved.
        • (iii) The emeritus member may render legal advice and perform other appropriate legal services.
        • (iv) The emeritus member may engage in such other preparatory activities as are necessary for any matter in which he or she is properly involved.
    • (3) Limitations
      • (A) The prohibition against compensation for the emeritus member contained in Section (1)(B)(v) of this subparagraph shall not prevent the qualified legal services provider from reimbursing the emeritus member for actual expenses incurred while rendering service under this subparagraph, nor shall it prevent the qualified legal services provider from charging for its services as it may otherwise properly charge. The qualified legal services provider shall be entitled to receive all court awarded attorney’s fees for any representation rendered by an emeritus member.
    • (4) Certification. Permission for an emeritus member to perform services under this subparagraph shall become effective upon:
      • (A)A determination by the Virginia State Bar that the emeritus member has fulfilled the requirements of such membership and has a clear disciplinary record as required by Section (1)(B) of this subparagraph; and
      • (B)The filing with the Virginia State Bar each year of an affidavit of affiliation with a qualified legal services provider by the emeritus member.  The emeritus member shall also certify in this affidavit whether such member is currently covered by professional liability insurance.
    • (5) Membership Requirements. In order to practice law under this rule, a retired member must comply with the petition and approval requirements for reinstatement as an active member prescribed in Paragraph 3(d) of Part 6, Section IV of the Rules of the Supreme Court of Virginia.  Also, associate members must satisfy any outstanding MCLE deficiencies before assuming emeritus status.  Additionally, emeritus members must comply with all rules and requirements set forth in Part 6, Section IV of the Rules of the Supreme Court of Virginia with the exception that they are not required to pay dues and the client protection fund fee as set forth in Paragraphs 11 and 16, nor comply with the professional liability certification requirements in Paragraph 18. 
    •  
    • (6) Change of Membership Status. An emeritus member may petition for reinstatement to active or associate membership under the procedure prescribed in subparagraph (d) of this rule for disabled and retired members.

Effective March 1, 2018 changes to Paragraph 3 modifyied the status of Emeritus Members allowed to provide pro bono services. The amendments alter the number of years an attorney must have been engaged in active practice before becoming an emeritus member, and they abolish the requirement to practice under the direct supervision of legal aid attorneys.

Updated: March 1, 2018