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, house counsel, 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) Has been engaged in the active practice of law for a minimum of ten out of the fifteen years immediately preceding the application to become an emeritus member; and
        • (ii) Is, at the time of requesting emeritus member status, an active member in good standing of the Virginia State Bar and has not been disciplined for professional misconduct by the bar or courts of any jurisdiction within the past fifteen years; and
        • (iii) Signs a statement that he or she has read and will comply with the Virginia Rules of Professional Conduct and as an emeritus member submits to the continuing jurisdiction of the Virginia Supreme Court and the Virginia State Bar for disciplinary purposes; and
        • (iv) Agrees to neither ask for nor receive any compensation of any kind, except for out-of-pocket expenses, for the legal service to be rendered under this subparagraph.
      • (C) Approved legal assistance organization, 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 and receiving funds for that purpose from an agency or entity of the federal government or the Commonwealth of Virginia, or from the Virginia Law Foundation.
      • (D) Supervising attorney, for purposes of this subparagraph, is an attorney who directs and supervises an emeritus member engaged in activities permitted by this subparagraph. The supervising attorney must:
        • (i) Be an active member of the Virginia State Bar in good standing employed by or participating as a volunteer for an approved legal assistance organization; and
        • (ii) Assume personal professional responsibility for supervising the conduct of the litigation, administrative proceeding, or other legal service in which the emeritus member engages; and
        • (iii) Direct and assist the emeritus member in his or her preparation to the extent the supervising attorney considers it necessary.
    • (2) Activities.
      • (A) An emeritus member, in association with an approved legal assistance organization and only under the supervision of a supervising attorney, 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 an approved legal assistance organization if the person on whose behalf the emeritus member is appearing has consented in writing to that appearance and a supervising attorney has given written approval for that appearance. The written consent and approval shall be filed in the record of each case and shall be brought to the attention of the presiding judge or presiding officer in any administrative or arbitration proceeding.
        • (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 attorney may render legal advice and perform other appropriate legal services, but only with the express approval of the supervising attorney.
        • (iv) The emeritus attorney may engage in such other preparatory activities as are necessary for any matter in which he or she is properly involved.
      • (B) The presiding judge, hearing officer, or arbitrator may, in his or her discretion, determine the extent of the emeritus member's participation in any proceeding.
    • (3) Supervision and Limitations
      • (A) An emeritus member must perform all activities authorized by this subparagraph under the direct supervision of a supervising attorney.
      • (B) Emeritus members permitted to perform services under this subparagraph are not, and shall not represent themselves to be, active members of the Virginia State Bar licensed to practice law generally in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
      • (C) The prohibition against compensation for the emeritus member contained in Section (1)(B)(iv) of this subparagraph shall not prevent the approved legal assistance organization from reimbursing the emeritus member for actual expenses incurred while rendering service under this subparagraph, nor shall it prevent the approved legal assistance organization from charging for its services as it may otherwise properly charge. The approved legal assistance organization 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 filing with and approval by the Virginia State Bar of:
      • (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)A certification by an approved legal assistance organization stating that the emeritus member is currently associated with that approved legal assistance organization and that an attorney employed by or participating as a volunteer with that organization will assume the duties of the supervising attorney required under this subparagraph.
    • (5) Withdrawal of Certification.
      • (A) Permission to perform services under this subparagraph shall cease immediately upon the filing with the Virginia State Bar of a notice either:
        • (i) By the approved legal assistance organization stating that:
          • (a) The emeritus member has ceased to be associated with the organization, which notice must be filed within five days after such association has ceased, or
          • (b) That the certification of such attorney is withdrawn. An approved legal assistance organization may withdraw certification at any time and it is not necessary that the notice state the cause for such withdrawal. A copy of the notice filed with the Virginia State Bar shall be mailed by the organization to the emeritus member concerned.
        • (ii) By the Virginia State Bar, or the Virginia Supreme Court, at any time, stating that permission to perform service under this subparagraph is revoked. A copy of such notice shall be mailed to the emeritus member involved and to the approved legal assistance organization by which he or she has been certified. The emeritus member may apply to the Virginia State Bar or the Virginia Supreme Court for review of such revocation.
      • (B) If an emeritus member’s certification is withdrawn, for any reason, the supervising attorney shall promptly file a notice of such action in the official file of each matter pending before any court or tribunal in which the emeritus member was involved.
    • (6) Discipline. In addition to any appropriate investigation or proceeding instituted, or any discipline that may be imposed by the Virginia Supreme Court or the Virginia State Bar, the emeritus member shall be subject to the following disciplinary measures:
      • (A) The presiding judge or hearing officer for any matter in which the emeritus member has participated may hold the emeritus member in civil contempt for any failure to abide by such tribunal’s orders; and
      • (B) The Virginia Supreme Court, the Virginia State Bar, or the approved legal assistance organization may, at any time, with or without cause, withdraw certification under this subparagraph.
    • (7) Mandatory Continuing Legal Education. Emeritus members must satisfy the Mandatory Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) obligations required of active members under Part 6, § IV, Paragraph 17 of the Rules of the Supreme Court of Virginia. Failure to satisfy the MCLE requirements shall subject the emeritus members to the fees and sanctions specified in Part 6, Section IV, Paragraph 19 of the Rules the Virginia Supreme Court.
    • (8) Change of Membership Status. An emeritus member may petition for reinstatement to active membership under the procedure prescribed in subparagraph (d) of this rule for disabled and retired members.

Updated: March 23, 2010